How to not get skin cancer

Ladies, are you wearing your SPF?
Ladies, are you wearing your SPF?

Even though skin cancer can be as deadly as breast or any other cancer, people still take chances with sun and tanning bed exposure. Every year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. We asked Dr. Ellen Marmur, a New York-based dermatologist and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, for the lowdown on keeping skin healthy.

The sunscreen rules have changed
“The FDA has made a radical change in sunscreen labeling,” Dr. Marmur tells us. “Now, any sunscreen with a SPF of less than 15 has to carry a warning, just like packets of cigarettes. (That applies to sunscreens not labeled “broad spectrum” as well.) UV light is a known carcinogen. An SPF of 30 to 50 is now recommended. Sunscreen is essential, but even with using a sunscreen continue to be smart. Stay out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. or 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., depending on where you live.”

The difference between melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer
“Melanoma is the least common, but it’s the most serious,” Marmur says. “If you catch it early enough, you’re fine. Once melanomas grow deeper, the mortality rate skyrockets. Then, there’s basal cell cancer — it looks like a pimple. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common, and it’s crusty and darkish red.

What to look for
“Look for the ugly duckling,” she says. “If you have a lot of moles or discoloration, look for the one that grows faster. Commonly, it’s brown, but if it’s red then it’s forming its own blood vessels. If it’s bluish-brown, then it’s gone deeper. Check your skin from head to toe. If in doubt, seek medical help.” Click here for a chart on what cancerous and non-cancerous moles look like.

Seriously, stop tanning
Tanning beds are known to increase the risk of skin cancers by 75 percent. “No one should use them, no matter what age,” Marmur says.

Redheads — listen up
The old adage that redheads are more susceptible to sun damage is no old wives’ tale, it seems. BioEssays reports that people with pale skin and red hair are at greater risk of cancer because they synthesize a pigment called pheomelanin. It gives red hair its color and is carcinogenic, independent of UV light. If you’ve got those luck-of-the-Irish locks, be extra careful about slathering on SPF, tossing on a hat and seeking out shade.

CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy jubilates after scoring the eventual game-winning goal against the Houston Dynamo in the second half during 2011 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on November 20, 2011 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated the Dynamo 1-0 to win the MLS Cup.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Landon Donovan had a brush with cancer in his family. Credit: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Why this issue is important for me — and other guys

Landon Donovan, soccer player, Los Angeles Galaxy

“It’s no secret that I’ve spent most of my life playing soccer outdoors, but I wasn’t always diligent in applying sunscreen. That all changed when my father discovered a bump on his eyelid that turned out to be skin cancer. My father was lucky to have caught his cancer early and received treatment immediately. He’s now happy, healthy and cancer-free. Many men overlook the importance of sun protection. In 2012, the Skin Cancer Foundation issued a national survey evaluating awareness and usage of sun protection and found that nearly half of men don’t wear sunscreen. To help spread the word, I’ve partnered with the Skin Cancer Foundation and the makers of Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic sunscreens to launch a public awareness campaign to educate men on the risk and how easily they can protect themselves. Visit www.sunblunders.com to learn more about how to stay safe in the sun.”



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