Skin Health

Love the Skin You're In

Your skin is your biggest organ (by surface area) and skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.

There are 2 million new cases of skin cancer every year in the United States. Most of these are squamous cell or basal cell cancers. These types of cancer generally are quite curable and seldom spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. Melanoma, however, is a very aggressive type of skin cancer that is fairly common. In 2008, almost 60,000 Americans were diagnosed with melanoma.

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to limit your sun exposure. Plan your outdoor activities for when your shadow is longer than you; early morning, late afternoon, and evening. Seek shade or create it with a wide-brimmed hat when you are out in the middle of the day. Baseball caps leave your ears exposed. Remember that the sun’s rays can pass through light clothing, windows and clouds.

Invest in sunglasses that offer UV protection to protect the skin around your eyes. Pick a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays and use plenty of it; a shot glass full (1 ounce) for an average-sized person in summer attire. Some recommend an SPF of at least 15, but the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends an SPF of 30. Apply sunscreen about half an hour before going outside and reapply it every couple of hours or after sweating or swimming. Don’t forget your ears!

Finally, check out your “birthday suit” on your birthday! Once a year someone should be getting a good look at your skin from head to toe. You may be able to do this yourself using a mirror. If not enlist the help of a loved one or your medical provider.

Check out the National Cancer Institute’s on-line booklet, What You Need to Know about Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers