According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other forms of cancer combined.Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer; it is estimated that 2.8 million are diagnosed annually in the US. BCCs are rarely fatal, but can be highly harming if allowed to grow.MORE: Young Skin From the Neck DownSquamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 700,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the US, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths. About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old. One in 55 people will be diagnosed with melanoma during their lifetime.The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin, is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced disease.MORE: Staving Off SunburnThe most important reason for vigilant sun protection is preventing cancer, but of course the sun also does some unwelcome things to your skin.
- Your pores will get bigger. People think that pore size is genetic; it’s not. Over time, the pores of people who tan a lot will hypertrophy and increase in width, creating a rough, patchy texture on your skin.
- Your other skin conditions will get worse. The sun can irritate skin conditions like eczema, melasma, vitiligo and even acne. This can cause tone changes that range from hyperpigmentation to scarring.
- Get ready for wrinkles. Between UVB rays and UVA rays, it’s the latter that cause premature aging of the skin. And, contrary to popular belief, people who have more melanin in their skin are not immune to their effects.
- Slather up. Rain or shine, apply sunscreen every day. My darker-skinned patients think they’re automatically protected, and they’re not. They need to apply an SPF of at least 30 in the morning, and then again throughout the day.
- Don’t rely on tinted moisturizers. Remember that foundations and tinted moisturizers with SPF are makeup, meaning that you apply it heavier to some areas and lighter to others. For full sun protection, use a mattifying, oil-free sunscreen underneath any face makeup.
- See your dermatologist annually. YouBeauty readers revealed that a whopping 85 percent of you haven’t had a full-body skin check from a dermatologist in the past year. Seeing a dermatologist annually is important and could even save your life. Just don’t be burned when you come! In order to best analyze your skin, doctors need to see your skin as close as possible to its natural tone. This will allow him or her to get a better look at any abnormalities.
- Spray your feet. In addition to applying to your ears, nose, back, shoulders and knees, be sure to get your feet. People get accidentally burned in these places most often, because this is where the sun is hitting them when they go outside for lunch. Keep a spray sunscreen and an easy-to-apply stick sunscreen at your desk and apply to these spots 30 minutes before escaping your cubicle for lunch.
- Keep sunscreen in the car. The biggest hurdle to applying sunscreen regularly is overcoming behavioral barriers. Keep face and body block in your car so that you have it handy whenever you feel the need for application. Over time, you’ll just get accustomed to reapplying frequently.
- Don’t rationalize tanning with a need for vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies have been a hot topic in the dermatology world. Some people think that if they’re deficient, they have license to sit in the sun, but one person dies from melanoma every 62 minutes. Get your daily vitamin D from oral supplements and eating well.
There are treatments to try; if you have started to notice changes in your skin that you think can be attributed to DNA damage (wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dull skin, etc.), then see your dermatologist about in-office procedures. Some are more invasive than others, so research your options before getting in the chair. Here are a few of my favorites for women all ages and races.MORE: Four Types Of Wrinkles And How To Treat ThemTheraplex peels. Chemical peels are among the least intensive options for fixing damage done by sun exposure. I like the Theraplex peel that is 25 percent salicylic acid for gentle exfoliation. Plus, this peel is safe for all skin tones and has no downtime.Fraxel Re:Store Laser. This resurfacing laser works on skin types ranging from the lightest of the light to the darkest of the dark and helps with deeper pigmentation issues, including acne. People are usually able to return to work the next day, which is incredible considering that it can diminish the signs of crows feet, age spots, melasma and precancerous lesions.MORE: Pore-Minimizing SecretsAllumera. This is the first non-invasive photodynamic cream that can even out skin tone and improve texture. You need to avoid the sun for two days after having the cream applied by your doctor, so plan accordingly. When it comes to pigmentation issues, I find that my patients are willing to undergo more involved treatments to fix their problems faster. Pore size is reported to decrease in 44 percent of patients after three treatments.Botox and Fillers. These two products usually do more than almost any other product there is to decrease fine lines and wrinkles, build collagen, plump up the face and keep women and men with sun damage looking significantly younger. I have used both of these on my patients since 1994 and have been involved in many of the clinical trials. Botox is my favorite for the forehead and I use Restylane, Perlane and Juvederm for fillers.