Skin cancer is a serious skin condition that affects both men and women worldwide. With millions of diagnosed cases in the United States alone, we’re often left wondering if there is a way to prevent this condition. While this type of cancer can advance if undetected, the good news is most skin cancers are, in fact, preventable.
Note: If your skin shows signs of cancer, early detection can save your life. Always check with your dermatologist as some forms of skin cancer are highly treatable in their early stages.
What is Skin Cancer and How Does it Develop?
The Skin Cancer Foundation defines it as an “out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, caused by unrepaired DNA damage.” This uncontrolled growth of skin cells triggers mutations, which can result in one of many forms of skin cancer, the most common being basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Skin cancer begins in the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, and is mainly caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, skin cancer can also develop is areas of the skin not exposed to sunlight. The Mayo Clinic suggests that this type of skin cell mutation can be caused exposure to toxic substances or a weakened immune system.
Preventative Measures to Avoid Skin Cancer
Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from skin cancer:
Avoid overexposure to the sun. The sun’s UV radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer and exposure to these rays without protection damages skin DNA. According to the Cleveland Clinic, having five or more sunburns in your life doubles your chance of developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. To avoid potentially causing irreparable damage to your skin, use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 and wear protective clothing that covers areas of the body that come in contact with the sun. If possible, avoid the sun altogether between the hours of 10AM and 4PM.
Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds also expose the skin to damaging UV rays and have proven to cause similar damage to skin cells. Studies show that the risk of melanoma of the skin increased by 75% when participants under the age of 35 began using tanning beds.
Maintain a healthy diet and lean towards foods rich in beta-carotene, lycopene, and flavonoids. Maintaining a nutrient-rich diet filled with antioxidants can help reduce the risk of skin cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet rays can generate free radicals in the body, which, at high concentrations, can damage all major components of healthy cells and skin DNA. Eating antioxidant-rich foods can help neutralize these free radicals and reduce the damage they cause that can lead to skin cancer.
Check for early signs. Always be on the lookout for any changes to your skin and monitor any new or existing moles or marks.