One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, has steadily increased over the past three decades – to the rate of one American dying an hour from it, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Detecting melanoma when it is most treatable is key to survival. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, and improve your chances of catching it in its most curable stages.
Preventing skin cancer
While no type of cancer is 100 percent preventable, you can do a lot to minimize your risk of developing skin cancer, including:
* Always wear sunscreen when you go outside, even during winter months. In summer, use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
* For further sun protection, wear long sleeves and hats outdoors, especially if you’ll be in direct sunlight for an extended period of time. Many sportswear and swimwear manufacturers offer long-sleeved garments made from lightweight, breathable materials that will keep you cool and dry while shielding you from the sun
* Avoid tanning, including tanning beds. Multiple studies have found that indoor tanning increases your risk of melanoma by 75 percent, and the risk grows with every use
Detecting skin cancer
Detecting skin cancer when it is most curable is one of the most important ways to ensure a positive outcome for skin cancer treatment. Your detection efforts should include:
* Conduct self-checks. Regularly examine your own skin, looking for changes in the appearance of moles. Use a mirror to look at your back, or have a loved one help. Don’t rely on smartphone technology for diagnosis. Some consumers are using smartphone applications for medical guidance on irregular moles. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that these apps are not reliable tools, with three out of four applications incorrectly classifying 30 percent or more of melanomas as unconcerning
* Visit a dermatologist for an annual skin cancer check. Ask your dermatologist about MelaFind, an FDA-approved diagnostic tool that helps dermatologists catch melanoma when it is most curable. Non-invasive and painless for patients, MelaFind uses multi-spectral light technology to analyze irregular moles in less than a minute, allowing dermatologists to better determine whether or not to biopsy a mole. In a clinical study, MelaFind had a 98.3 percent find rate for melanoma. To find a dermatologist who is using this breakthrough technology, visit www.melafind.com
Treating skin cancer
If your dermatologist finds skin cancer, it’s important to know you have treatment options. Patients whose melanoma is diagnosed when it is most curable have a survival rate of 97 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Discuss your options with your doctor, and work in tandem with health care providers to ensure the best possible outcome for any treatment.
While skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, it is also the most preventable. Taking steps to reduce your risk, and catch skin problems before they become life threatening, can help your skin stay healthy and cancer-free throughout your lifetime.