Location, location, location is the mantra of the real estate profession. But it’s also a key concept for skin cancer.
The closer you live to the equator, the higher your risk of skin cancer. The No. 1 risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation that primarily comes from the sun but also from tanning beds.
Stay inside during the midday hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when UV rays are at their peak. Wear protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head, face and ears. Apply sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 35 or higher every day, even on cloudy days, and reapply every two hours.
For non-melanoma skin cancers, risk is directly correlated with cumulative exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The more time you spend in the sun over your lifetime, the greater your risk. Although most skin cancers don’t appear until after the age of 50, the sun damages the skin from early childhood.
You may have noticed that freckles, sun spots and other skin blemishes that develop later in life appear mostly on skin that has been most exposed to UV rays. These are also the locations where skin cancers are likely to develop: the face, scalp, ears, neck and hands. Those are the places to protect against the sun.
Be sure to apply sunscreen daily to your face and hands. A baseball cap will cover your scalp but not your ears or neck. That’s why a wide-brimmed hat is recommended. Most cancers that develop in these locations are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. They seldom become life-threatening.
Melanoma is a less common but a more serious skin cancer. Frequent severe sunburns, particularly in youth, may pose a greater danger than cumulative exposure over a lifetime with regard to melanomas.
About one-third of melanomas occur on the neck. For men, that is a particularly likely area, along with the upper back, chest and anywhere on the trunk. For women, the most common melanoma sites are the lower legs, upper back and arms.
All skin cancers, even melanoma, are curable if detected and removed at an early stage. So it’s important to examine your skin on a regular basis and learn to recognize the signs. Keep track of the spots, freckles, moles and other lesions on your body. When a new one appears or if there is a change in an old one, report it to your healthcare provider.
Dr. Swati Yalamanchi, a hematologist/oncologist with Baptist Health Medical Group Hematology & Oncology, practices at Baptist Health Corbin.