NEW YORK — Adopting healthy skin habits in 2013 could save your life. Thousands of people in the United States die each year from skin cancer, a highly preventable and treatable disease. Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age or skin color, which is why making skin health a priority should be on everyone’s list of New Year’s resolutions.
With an easy-to-remember acronym, S.K.I.N., The Skin Cancer Foundation is proposing four simple steps for keeping skin cancer prevention and skin health top of mind in 2013 and beyond: Skip the tanning bed, Keep up with skin exams, Ignore the myths and Never skimp on sun protection.
Skip the tanning bed
New research findings reveal that just one indoor UV tanning session increases the risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, by 20 percent, and each additional session during the same year boosts the risk almost another 2 percent. Each year in the United States, more than 9,000 people die of melanoma. Overall, indoor UV tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors, and those who begin tanning before the age of 35 increase their melanoma risk by almost 90 percent.
Keep up with skin exams
Skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable. The five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin, is about 98 percent. The survival rate falls significantly when the disease has the chance to metastasize (spread) throughout the body. Check your skin from head to toe each month, and visit a dermatologist annually for a professional skin exam. If you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious, see a physician immediately. Visit SkinCancer.org to download a guide to self-exams and find a local dermatologist with the Foundation’s Physician Finder.
Ignore the myths (and learn the facts)
There are many misconceptions surrounding skin health, particularly when it comes to skin cancer and sun protection. For example, spending time outdoors without sun protection is not the best way to obtain vitamin D; doing so will increase your risk of skin cancers, premature skin aging and a weakened immune system. Vitamin D can be acquired safely through diet and supplements.
Another common myth is that you need sun protection only on sunny days. The intensity of the sun’s UV rays is not simply linked to air temperature, and while bright, hot, sunny days always pose UV risks, you can damage your skin on cold or cloudy days as well. This is because even when it’s overcast, between 50 and 80 percent of UV rays penetrate the clouds to reach the skin.
Never skimp on sun protection (even indoors)
The foundation recommends adopting a complete sun-protection regimen: cover up with protective clothing (including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses), seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and wear sunscreen every day. Because UVA radiation can pass through glass, be mindful of sun protection even while at home and in the car. Consider installing window film, which can block almost 100 percent of UVA radiation from penetrating glass. For more information, visit SkinCancer.org.
From the Dec. 19-25, 2012, issue