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Understanding skin cancer: detection and prevention

Updated: Mar 14

Skin cancer is a prevalent and potentially life-threatening disease that affects millions of people worldwide.

Woman sunbathing

Skin cancer is a prevalent and potentially life-threatening disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the skin cells undergo abnormal growth and damage due to exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. Although skin cancer is a serious concern, early detection and adopting preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk. In this blog post, I will delve into the types of skin cancer, how to detect it, and essential strategies for prevention.

Types of skin cancer

There are three primary types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma.

  1. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): BCC is the most common form of skin cancer. It typically appears on sun-exposed areas like the face, neck, and ears. This type of cancer often appears as a waxy bump, a pearly white or pink growth, or a sore that does not heal.

  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer and also develops in sun-exposed areas. It often looks like a scaly red patch, an open sore, or a raised growth with a crusted surface.

  3. Melanoma: Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can develop anywhere on the body, even in areas not exposed to the sun. It usually appears as an irregularly shaped mole with uneven edges and varying colors.

Detecting skin cancer

Early detection is crucial in successfully treating skin cancer. Regular self-examinations and professional screenings can help identify any suspicious changes on the skin. Follow the ABCDE rule for self-examinations:

  • A - Asymmetry: One half of the mole or spot does not match the other half.

  • B - Border: The edges are irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined.

  • C - Color: The color varies from one area to another, with shades of black, brown, tan, or even red, white, or blue.

  • D - Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than the size of a pencil eraser, but they can sometimes be smaller.

  • E - Evolving: The mole or spot looks different from the rest, or it changes in size, shape, or color over time.

If you notice any of these signs, consult a dermatologist for a thorough examination.

Preventing skin cancer

Prevention is critical in reducing the risk of skin cancer. Here are some essential strategies to protect your skin from harmful UV rays:

  1. Apply Sunscreen Regularly: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply it generously to all exposed areas of the skin, including the face, neck, ears, and hands. Reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating. Check out my Fullscript sun protection protocol for a list of sunscreens I recommend. Also, for the perfect sunscreen to apply under your everyday makeup, Colorscience has a great broad-spectrum sunscreen that wears well under makeup.

  2. Seek Shade: Limit your time in the sun, especially during peak hours when the sun's rays are the strongest (usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Seek shade under umbrellas, trees, or wear protective clothing.

  3. Wear Protective Clothing: Wear long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with UV protection. Specialized sun-protective clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is also available for added protection.

  4. Avoid Tanning Beds: Tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation, which significantly increases the risk of skin cancer. Opt for non-toxic, self-tanning products if you desire a sun-kissed glow.

  5. Perform Regular Self-Examinations: Familiarize yourself with your skin and perform self-examinations regularly. Note any changes in moles, spots, or growths, and seek medical attention if you notice anything suspicious.

  6. Protect Children: Children's skin is especially sensitive to UV radiation. Keep infants under six months old out of direct sunlight and apply sunscreen on children over six months regularly. Encourage them to seek shade and wear protective clothing when outdoors.

  7. Check Your Medications: Certain medications can increase sensitivity to UV radiation. If you are taking any prescription medications, consult your doctor about potential side effects related to sun exposure.

The takeaways:

Skin cancer is a serious health concern, but through awareness, early detection, and preventive measures, we can take significant steps to reduce its incidence and impact. Stay vigilant about changes in your skin, wear sunscreen diligently, seek shade when possible, and protect yourself and your loved ones from harmful UV rays. Remember, a little precaution can go a long way in safeguarding your skin and overall well-being.

Let's work together!

If you’d like to work with me, call Olympus Movement Performance at 760.216.6047 in Vista, CA, or The Adapt Lab clinic at 858.209.2400 in Solana Beach, CA to make an appointment. I look forward to helping you get your health back on track!

*Disclaimer: Although I am a doctor, I may not be your doctor. The information contained within the pages of this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used to treat conditions. Please consult with your doctor before implementing any of the treatments, diets, supplements, etc. mentioned in this blog.*

*Dr. Francesca is an affiliate for Amazon and other companies. Some links contained within the blog posts may be affiliate links from which she receives a small commission to help support her practice at no extra cost to the customer.*

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