Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer there is, with millions of cases diagnosed throughout the world each year. Since it’s so common and also rarely fatal, we tend to think of it as a minor form of cancer. But, particularly for those of us who live in sunny climates, this is a mistake. Malignant melanoma, while being the least common of the major types of skin cancer, is fatal in a large percentage of cases. And even the less dangerous but more frequent types of skin cancer can cause permanent scarring to the skin. They also require sufferers to spend time and money on treatment, which can be a huge drain financially and emotionally
In light of all this, you’re never too young to start taking action to prevent skin cancer. With all forms of cancer that are at least partially determined by our habits and lifestyles, things that we do in our youths and in our 30s and 40s can have a tremendous effect on our chances of developing cancer later on. And that’s not to mention the fact that there are many types of cancer, including some skin cancers, that are just as likely to develop in young people as they are in middle-aged or elderly people.
So, now is the time to take action. You don’t have to be obsessed. You just have to keep it in the back of your mind, just in case. Here’s what to do:
1. First of all, don’t smoke. This one should be a no-brainer. Not only does smoking double your risk of skin cancer, but it can also cause all kinds of more serious life-threatening cancers. So get rid of those cigarettes. They’re not doing anything good for you.
2. Cut down on your sun exposure. Studies reveal that many cases of skin cancer are directly related to cell DNA damage that is brought on by too much direct exposure to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. It’s a good idea to minimize your exposure to the sun during its peak hours between 11 AM and 4 PM. Also, keep in mind that UV rays are damaging regardless of the season or the temperature. Even in Antarctica, your skin can be damaged by UV rays.
And it can’t hurt to use sunscreen any time you’re going to be out in the sun for more than just a few minutes at a time. Always have sunscreen in your medicine cabinent, and apply it liberally whenever you think you might be out for a while. Sunscreen does no harm. In fact, it’s an underappreciated product that pretty much everyone should use more often.
3. Keep an eye on your skin. People with moles are at a higher risk of skin cancer, as are people who have trouble healing from burns or other types of wounds. Any time you go to see your doctor, it’s a good idea to alert her to any skin problems that you are even slightly worried about. If you have any itchy moles or scabs that never seem to go away, these are early warning signs of potentially more serious problems later on.