Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes longer days, warmer weather, and more time spent outside. However, while soaking up the sun may feel good, it can be incredibly harmful to your skin. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with one in five Americans developing skin cancer in their lifetime. This statistic can be alarming but with increased awareness, early detection and prevention, skin cancer can be treated successfully. As the largest organ in the human body, the skin serves as a first defense against external factors that may harm the body. In this blog post, we will provide an in-depth guide to skin cancer awareness, from the development of skin cancer to its treatment, prevention, and the best skincare products to help protect against its development.
How does skin cancer develop?
Skin cancer develops when the skin cells grow abnormally, often due to exposure to UV radiation from sunlight or indoor tanning, or from other factors such as genetics or a weakened immune system. These abnormal cells can grow into a tumor, which can be either benign or malignant. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, develops in the melanocytes of the skin, while non-melanoma skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratoses and Merkel cell carcinoma affect various layers of the skin.
Types of skin cancer
Actinic Keratosis, a type of precancerous skin lesion, typically appears on sun-exposed areas such as the scalp, face, ears, and hands. It may feel like a small patch of sandpaper and come in a variety of colors. Early treatment is crucial, as untreated lesions have a chance of becoming squamous cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma develops in the basal skin cells and most commonly appears as a sore or red patch on sun-exposed areas of the skin. While these growths tend to develop slowly and are easy to treat, it’s important to consult with a doctor if you notice any changes to your skin or if a wound or sore isn’t healing.
Squamous cell carcinomas are common in sun-exposed areas and may take various forms, including scaly patches, open sores, or tender growths. These lesions can be itchy and may lead to infections if scratched. It’s important to seek treatment early, as untreated lesions can grow and spread to other organs.
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, can appear anywhere on the body, including the eye. The “ABCDE” method can help you identify possible signs of melanoma, such as asymmetry, irregular borders, color changes, large size, and evolving appearance. Consult your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. For People of Color, melanoma often occurs in areas with little sun exposure, such as the palms, soles, and nails.
Treatment of skin cancer
The treatment of skin cancer primarily depends on the type and stage of the cancer. Treatments can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy. However, the key to successful skin cancer treatment is early detection. Regular self-exams of the skin, along with professional screenings by a dermatologist, can help detect skin cancer in its early stages when it’s most treatable.
When detected early, most types of skin cancer can be treated by removing the affected area. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, including:
– Cryosurgery: Applying liquid nitrogen to the growth to freeze and remove it without any incisions. This is often used for treating actinic keratosis.
– Curettage and electrodesiccation: Scraping the growth off with a curette and then burning the area with an electrocautery needle to eliminate any remaining skin cancer cells.
– Creams: Using prescribed topical creams like imiquimod and 5-fluorouracil to remove actinic keratosis and superficial basal cell carcinomas over a few weeks.
– Excisional surgery: Removing the growth and the surrounding healthy skin with a scalpel. The healthy skin is then tested for cancer cells. Repeat procedures may be necessary if cancer cells are discovered.
How to prevent skin cancer
Preventing skin cancer starts with protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. This includes wearing protective clothing, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, and avoiding extreme exposure to UV rays such as in tanning beds. Additionally, it’s essential to conduct regular skin check-ups, remain mindful of any changes in moles or new growths on the skin and limit exposure to UV light.
Best skincare products to help prevent skin cancer
The ideal way to prevent skin cancer is by effectively shielding the skin from sunlight. Investing in good quality sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses will not only protect your skin but also limit the effects of sun-induced aging. In addition, incorporating a daily sunscreen with a high SPF into your skincare regime adds an extra layer of protection. Furthermore, skincare products which contain antioxidants can be of great help. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals caused by UV rays, and prevent further skin damage. Vitamin C, vitamin E, Q10, Hydroxtyrosol are just some options available.
Choose skincare brands that are committed to using quality ingredients that have undergone rigorous evaluation to provide the best protection possible.
Skin cancer is a serious condition that can be easily prevented with proper awareness and preventative measures. Now that you are armed with a better understanding of skin cancer, its types, treatment, prevention, and the best skincare products to use, make a conscious effort to protect your largest organ- your skin. Remember, wearing protective clothing, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, avoiding indoor tanning, conducting regular self-exams, and being mindful of any changes in the skin must all be part of your daily routine. Practice these protective measures to keep your skin healthy and lower your risk of developing skin cancer.