Skin Cancer Awareness and Prevention 101 with Dr. Jane Yoo
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to educate yourself on the dangers of skin cancer and how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe through preventive measures. These measures could save a life!
As passionate advocates for skin cancer awareness, UV Skinz sat down and spoke with Board-Certified Dermatologist and Mohs Surgeon in NYC, Dr. Jane Yoo to learn how we can all exercise precaution when it comes to sun exposure.
Learn everything you need to know about skin cancer and Melanoma, how to prevent skin cancer, what a skin check is, as well as how to keep yourself safe from UV rays with Dr. Yoo on our blog today.
Skin Cancer Facts
You might not be aware of this, but skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. However, it is also so important to note that it is also one of the most preventable cancers with early detection!
According to Dr. Yoo, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. And every day, 20 Americans die from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
So, how do we prevent skin cancer and what can you do to keep yourself sun-safe? Read along as Dr. Yoo provides her advice and tips on how to ensure you’re doing everything you can to stay skin cancer free.
What Is Skin Cancer?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells, typically caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays.
What Are the Different Types of Skin Cancer?
According to Dr. Yoo, the main types of skin cancer are:
- Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC)
- Actinic Keratoses (AKs)
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC)
Basal cell carcinomas (BCC) often look like a flesh-colored round growth, pearl-like bump, or a pinkish patch of skin. Early diagnosis and treatment for BCC are important as these cancers can grow deep. Allowed to grow, it can penetrate the nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.
Actinic Keratoses (AKs)
Some people develop dry, scaly patches or spots on their skin called actinic keratoses (AKs). Also caused by too much sun, an AK isn’t skin cancer. An AK is a precancerous skin growth that can turn into a common type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) often looks like a red firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then reopens. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent SCC from growing deep and spreading to other areas of the body.
Melanoma can develop within a mole on the skin or appear suddenly as a dark spot that looks different. Melanoma is often called “the most serious skin cancer” because it has a tendency to spread; therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial.
Although skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, it is one of the most preventable cancers with early detection.
Skin Cancer Prevention Interview with Dr. Jane Yoo, Board-Certified Dermatologist
What’s the Most Common Type of Skin Cancer?
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer and the most frequently occurring form of all cancers.
What Are the Warning Signs of Skin Cancer?
As skin cancer appears in many shapes and sizes, it’s important to know the warning signs associated with basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma, and pre-cancer, or actinic keratosis (AK).
If you see something NEW, CHANGING, or UNUSUAL, get checked by a dermatologist right away. This includes the following:
- A growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored.
- A mole, birthmark, or brown spot that increases in size, thickness, changes color or texture, or is bigger than a pencil eraser.
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, or bleed.
- An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.
These are the ABCDEs of Melanoma (courtesy of the American Academy of Dermatology):
What Is a Skin Cancer Screening?
A skin cancer screening is an exam that your doctor or dermatologist will perform to check your skin for any abnormalities.
If you’ve never had atypical moles or skin cancer, the exam will likely be brief. You’ll need to remove your clothes and put on a medical exam gown. Your dermatologist will thoroughly check your skin from head to toe, paying close attention to hard-to-see spots.
like your scalp, back and buttocks, behind your ears, and even between your toes. Your dermatologist may utilize a small handheld magnifying device called a dermatoscope, that visualizes the outer surface of the skin and the layers just beneath it.
Your dermatologist may biopsy one or more suspicious spots. This usually means removing part or all of the lesion and sending it to a lab for analysis. If the report comes back that the spot is skin cancer, your dermatologist will contact you and explain the type of skin cancer and treatment options.
How Often Should You Get Screened for Skin Cancer?
As part of a complete early detection strategy, it is recommended that you see a dermatologist at least once a year or more often if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer, for a full-body, professional skin exam.
Are There Any Organizations Offering Free Skin Cancer Screenings?
Yes, you can find a free skin cancer screening in your location by going the American Academy of Dermatology’s website to find a free screening by state.
The Skin Cancer Foundation also has a mobile skin cancer screening and education program known as Destination Healthy Skin. The Destination Healthy Skin RV visits approximately 30 cities around the US to provide free skin cancer screenings and education materials.
Can You Check Yourself for Skin Cancer?
Yes! There is a great infographic from the AAD as well as the Skin Cancer Foundation here:
How Do You Treat Skin Cancer?
Mohs surgery is considered the most effective technique for treating many basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), the two most common types of skin cancer.
This procedure is done in stages, all in one visit, while the patient waits between each stage. After removing a layer of tissue, the surgeon examines it under a microscope in an on-site lab. If any cancer cells remain, the surgeon knows the exact area where they are and removes another layer of tissue from that precise location, while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. The process is repeated until no cancer cells remain.
What Are Some Important Tips to Share with Our Readers on How to Stay Skin Cancer Free?
- Seek shade when appropriate, and remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
Wear sun-protective clothing, such as a lightweight long-sleeve shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label.
Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen whenever you are going to be outside, even on cloudy days.
Apply enough sunscreen to cover all of your skin not covered by your clothing. Most adults need about 1 ounce to fully cover their body. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears and the top of your head.
When outdoors, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand, as they reflect the sun’s damaging UV rays, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.
- Perform regular skin self-exams to detect skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable, and see a board-certified dermatologist if you notice new or suspicious spots on your skin, or anything changing, itching or bleeding.
For our Readers Out There, Why Is UPF 50+ Swimwear and Clothing So Important?
UPF swimwear and clothing can provide a great barrier against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Its protection is consistent over time and doesn’t wear off like sunscreen does. Many new fabrics offer high-tech protection and breathability, too.
The more skin you cover (high neck, long sleeves, pants), the better, and a hat with a wide brim all the way around (three inches or more) is best because it helps shade your eyes, ears, face, and neck. Don’t forget to wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes and the skin around them.
Look for a UPF rating, which stands for ultraviolet protection factor, on labels for clothing, and swimwear. The number indicates what fraction of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the fabric. A shirt labeled UPF 50, for example, allows just 1/50th of the UV radiation to reach your skin.
However, any clothing leaves some skin exposed, so you need sunscreen as well. Don’t forget to apply it to your hands, especially after washing them.
Do You Have a Favorite UV Skinz Product or One You’d Like to Recommend?
Yes! All of UV Skinz’s baby UPF 50+ clothing since I have an adorable niece and nephew who I love to purchase swimwear for!
Can We See Some Pictures of Your Nieces and Nephews in Our UPF Swimwear?
Yes, you can!
How Can You Keep Your Infant Sun-Safe for the New Moms Out There?
Here are some tips for infant sun protection:
Shade is the best way to shield your baby from the sun, especially if he or she is younger than 6 months old. Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible, and if you can’t find shade, create your own using an umbrella, canopy, UPF blanket, or the hood of a stroller.
This includes full coverage, so lightweight, long-sleeve shirts and pants. In addition, make sure your baby always wears a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
If shade and adequate UPF clothing are not available, parents and caretakers may apply a minimal amount of broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to their children’s skin.
Sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are less likely to irritate a baby’s sensitive skin. Remember to reapply your child’s sunscreen every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or sweating, as there is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen.
In addition to sun protection, stay safe on hot days by making sure your baby does not get overheated and drinks plenty of fluids. If your baby is fussy, crying excessively, or has redness on any exposed skin, take him or her indoors immediately.
Sun protection is important at every stage of life, including infancy. Always protect yourself and your family from the sun, and see a board-certified dermatologist if you have any questions about how to take care of your baby’s skin.
A big thank you to Dr. Yoo for speaking with us about skin cancer prevention and sharing such valuable tips.
Remember to stay protected from the sun with UPF 50+ swimwear and clothing from UV Skinz. You could save a life!