(Family Features) Are you at risk for skin cancer? Do you know the signs? According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. That means odds are quite high that at least one in your circle of friends will face this dangerous disease. As the season for bare skin approaches, are you aware of the risks and preventative measures necessary to avoid sun exposure?
Approximately 58 million Americans are affected by actinic keratosis (AKs), the most common form of pre-cancerous skin damage known casually as “pre-cancers,” according to a report published by The Society for Investigative Dermatology and The American Academy of Dermatology Association. An estimated 10 percent of AKs will become squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, within two years.
AKs are rough-textured, dry, scaly patches on the skin that are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light such as sunlight. They occur most often on areas such as the face, scalp and ears. They can range in color from skin-toned to reddish-brown. They can be as small as a pinhead or larger than a quarter.
AKs predominately affect people over 50, and slightly more men than women. Individuals who are most likely affected by AKs include those who have risk factors including: fair skin; blond or red hair; blue, green or grey eyes; a history of kidney disease or weakened immune system; daily, long-term exposure to the sun; multiple severe sunburns early in life; and older age.
Fortunately, skin cancer can be avoided with treatment, yet many patients fail to seek treatment. What they may not realize is that there are actually many treatment options available, such as cryotherapy (freezing); topical medication; and photodynamic therapy. Additional treatment options include curettage, chemical peel, dermabrasion, surgical incision and lasers.
To reduce your risk of skin cancer you can take some precautions:
- Regular skin evaluations by a dermatologist can catch the disease early so that it can be treated. Just as you schedule an annual physical or other routine checkups as part of your regular health routine, a recurring appointment with a dermatologist can significantly alter your chances of developing skin cancer.
- In between visits to the dermatologist, perform thorough self-checks by examining your skin all over on a regular basis.
- Avoid damaging sun rays and protect your skin by seeking the shade during high sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.); avoiding sunburns; and covering your skin with clothing and hats.
- Do not use tanning booths!
- Understand sunscreen, and use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Do yourself a favor and get checked before the summer season to ensure you are properly caring for and protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging rays. The skin is the largest organ of the human body. Make the call to your dermatologist today.
For more information, including additional details about AKs and how to identify the signs of skin damage, visit www.spotsignsofAK.com.