It’s that time of year when temperatures start to rise and Americans eagerly leave their homes to get some much-needed vitamin D.
But as summer approaches, health experts warn of the consequences of excessive sun exposure.
“Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the United States,” said Dr. Susan Massick, associate professor of dermatology at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. Skin cancer “is preventable to some extent and is related to the amount of sun exposure people have”.
Here’s what the experts want you to know about skin cancer, including symptoms, risks and how to prevent it.
The most common types of skin cancer
Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer
The American Cancer Society says these cancers are most often found in areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, and arms. Although they are common, they are also generally treatable.
Squamous and basal cells are found in the top layer of the skin, called the epidermis. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 8 out of 10 skin cancers are basal cell cancers. Although it rarely spreads to other parts of the body, if not completely removed, it can return to the same place on the skin.
melanoma skin cancer
Melanoma is much less common than other types of skin cancer, but it can be dangerous because it’s more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not treated early, according to the American CancerSociety.
It happens when cells called melanocytes — which make a brown pigment called melanin and give skin its tan or brown color — start growing out of control.
While melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, it’s most likely to start on the chest and back, legs, or neck and face.
More: mRNA vaccine shows promise against melanoma skin cancer
Basal cell carcinoma: Biden had tissue removed from common skin cancer
Who should be screened for skin cancer?
The US Task Force on Preventive Services says more research is needed before recommending routine screening for skin cancer in adults and adolescents without risk factors and who do not have symptoms, according to updated guidelines. day published on Tuesday.
If you’re at higher risk for skin cancer, you may want to be screened regularly, experts say. This includes if you have:
- Personal history of basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, or family history of melanoma
- Lots of moles or atypical moles that have jagged edges, differ in color, or may be asymmetrical
- Numerous patches of actinic keratoses, which are lesions that are gray or scaly patches of skin in areas of the body that are often exposed to the sun
Skin cancer risk factors
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say anyone can get skin cancer, but people with certain characteristics may be at higher risk than others. This includes people with:
- Light skin color
- Skin that burns, freckles, blushes easily or becomes sore in the sun
- Blue or green eyes, or blond or red hair
- A large number of moles
- Advanced age
People who tend to work outdoors or chronically expose themselves to the sun may also be at higher risk for skin cancer and may want to get screened regularly, Massick said.
Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Typically, skin cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages, according to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but some symptoms may include:
►A suspicious point: It can be a new stitch or an existing stitch that changes size, shape or color. The spot may also be itchy or painful, scaly or red and rough.
►Other skin manifestations, such as:
- A sore that does not heal that bleeds or develops a scab
- A shiny red or flesh-colored bump on top of the skin
- A growth with a raised border and a central crust or bleeding
- A wart-like growth
- A scar growth without a well-defined border
Massick recommends regularly noting or taking pictures of any visual skin changes: “Cameras on phones are so effective and a good way to try to keep track of moles.”
Ways to prevent skin cancer
Experts advise avoiding indoor tanning, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and practicing sun safety, such as:
- Stay in the shade
- Wear clothes that cover the arms and legs
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, head, ears and neck
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays
- Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 15 or higher
“Like everything, we want to keep a healthy lifestyle,” Massick said. “No smoking, staying hydrated, eating a well-balanced diet.”
‘Wear sunscreen’:Hugh Jackman says he had biopsies to test for skin cancer
What sunscreens can be used safely?
In recent years, popular sunscreen brands have voluntarily recalled certain products after tests showed they were contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical called benzene. Although benzene is not a listed ingredient in sunscreens, experts say these products may have been contaminated during the manufacturing process.
“It seems to be localized to aerosol sunscreen types and sunscreen companies are very aware and focused on testing to make sure there are no contaminants,” Massick said.
Sunscreen reminder:Banana Boat Expands Recall of Benzene Sun Sprays
In addition to spray products, consumers may be wary of sunscreens containing oxybenzone, a chemical easily absorbed by the skin, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
Research suggests there may be health issues linked to oxybenzone and the Food and Drug Administration has asked for more data on the chemical’s effects when absorbed through the skin and potential allergic reactions, a declared the non-profit organization.
Massick recommends using mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or both.
“Sunscreen ingredients are non-carcinogenic and very safe to use, and the byproduct of not using them is an increased risk of skin cancer from the sun itself,” he said. she declared.
Dig deeper: More health news
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Coverage of patient health and safety at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial contributions.