Simple tips to outsmart skin cancer

By Dr. Mark Rosenberg, D.O.

When I tell people I’m a dermatologist, they often ask the same question: Are there any simple tricks for improving my skin health? In fact, other than eating a well-rounded diet, getting exercise and sleeping enough every night, the healthiest thing to do is to build anti-skin cancer efforts into your routine. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and melanoma mortality rates among men are rising worldwide. If you want a long, healthy life, it’s essential to prevent skin cancer or catch it early.

The best way to lower your chances of developing skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun. That’s because exposure to UV light measurably increases your cancer risk. If possible, you should avoid going outside during the sunniest parts of the day, usually around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you do go outside, you can lower your risk by covering your skin first. Wear close-knit clothing and coat any exposed skin in a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Both physical and chemical formulas are effective. A sunscreen habit makes a huge, potentially life-saving difference: The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that using an SPF 15-plus sunscreen every day reduces your melanoma risk by 50%.

Monthly self-checks for abnormal spots are another essential practice for healthy skin. Routine self-exams lead to early cancer detection, and early detection leads to better outcomes. Want proof? The five-year survival rate for early-stage melanoma is 98%. For late-stage melanoma, that number goes down to 23%. Taking the time to do a self-check could save your life!

Thankfully, cancer self-checks take only 15 minutes, so even the busiest people can fit them into their schedules. To do a self-examination, you’ll search your whole body for any skin spots that have grown in size, have an irregular border, or appear larger than a pencil eraser. Painful skin growths that refuse to heal should also raise a red flag.

Every self-check should include a thorough examination of your face, including behind your ears; your scalp; your hands, including between your fingers; your arms and armpits; your neck, chest, and stomach; your back, butt, and legs; your genitals; and your feet. Hand mirrors can help with hard-to-see places. For couples who live together, they can help the other to check their skin as an act of love and care.

If you do find an abnormal spot, there’s no need to panic. You should follow up by making an appointment with a dermatologist. We can diagnose and treat all types of skin cancer, sometimes without any cutting of the skin. In our offices, we use proven procedures, like Mohs micrographic surgery and cryotherapy, to rid patients of cancer when possible. We’re also well-versed in the psychological and emotional aspects of a cancer scare or diagnosis, so we can help talk you through.

Whatever happens, know that you do have a say in your skin health. Remember to cover your skin, do a monthly self-exam, and not to hesitate with any concerns or questions. We like to see our patients at least once a year, and our doors are open any time.

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, D.O., who has been practicing for 37 years, treats patients at English Dermatology, 20950 N. Tatum Boulevard, Suite 350, Phoenix. For an appointment, call 480-907-0546; englishdermatology.com.

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