The beginning of a new year is typically when people assess their health and vow to improve their well-being. Resolving to take better care of your skin is a great place to start: after all, it is the body's largest organ. Even though skin cancer is the world's most common cancer - one in five Americans will develop the disease - it is also highly preventable.
"Skin cancer is mainly a behavioral disease and it is strongly linked to sun exposure -- about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with ultraviolet rays from the sun," said Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. "Proper sun protection should be a priority year-round because UV rays are present every day, even when it's cold or overcast."
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends three critical steps to take in 2017 to help lower skin cancer risk.
1. Cover Up
Clothing is the best defense against skin cancer and the more skin you can cover, the better. But not all clothing is created equally: tight-knit fabrics (like denim) and synthetic materials (like polyester) offer better sun protection than loosely woven fabrics and natural materials. Wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your face, head, and neck. To protect your eyes and the sensitive skin around them, wear UV-blocking sunglasses.
2. Use Sunscreen Every Day
Studies have shown that daily use of an SPF (sun protection factor) 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent. Sunscreens come in many formulas - including sprays, lotions, and oils - so everyone can find one that fits their lifestyle. For daily use, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. For extended outdoor activity, choose a water-resistant, broad-spectrum formula with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Apply one ounce of sunscreen to your body 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating. When sunscreen shopping, look for The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation (pictured below), which assures consumers that a sun protection product performs as its label claims.
3. Check in With Your Skin
Skin cancers can be disfiguring and even deadly if allowed to progress. That's why early detection is so important - skin cancer is very treatable if detected in its early stages. However, the five-year survival rate for patients* whose melanoma has spread to distant organs is only 17 percent. If detected early, before the cancer has spread, the survival rate jumps to 98 percent.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends examining your skin from head-to-toe monthly and seeing a dermatologist once a year for a professional skin exam.
If you spot anything new or changing, make an appointment to see your doctor right away.
For more information about skin cancer prevention, detection, and treatment, visit SkinCancer.org.
*Based on SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2012.