Why is skin cancer screening recommended?
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Each year in the U.S., over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. Unfortunately melanoma, a very serious form of skin cancer, rates have consistently risen in the last decade.
Who is at risk?
Skin cancer can affect all age groups. Melanoma is the number one cancer in young adults aged 25 to 29, and it is by far the deadliest form of skin cancer, causing more than 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths.
Are we at risk in Oregon?
Skin cancer impacts a disproportionately high number of Oregonians. In fact, Oregon currently has the 5th highest number of melanoma cases in the nation.
Who should have a skin cancer screening?
Because melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults, we recommend an annual full body skin check for all adults over the age of 25. When caught early, the risk of death from melanoma is very low; but when caught late, the mortality rate is much higher.
We strongly recommend a skin check if any of the following describes you.
- A history of precancerous lesions (actinic keratoses)
- A greater-than-average number of moles
- A history of atypical moles
- A personal history of skin cancer
- A family history of skin cancer (especially in a first-degree relative)
- A personal history of extensive sun exposure or a history of severe burns as a child (especially in a light-skinned individuals)
- A history of tanning bed use
- A personal history of organ transplant
- Use of immunosuppressive medications or biologic medications including Humira, Remicade, Rituxan, Enbrel, CellCept, cyclosporine, or others
It is especially important to be seen immediately if you experience any of the following changes in your skin.
- A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed
- An open sore that does not heal within three weeks
- A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that:
- Changes color
- Has color variegation (multiple colors)
- Increases in size or thickness
- Develops a change in texture
- Has an irregular outline
- Is bigger than 6mm or 1/4″, (roughly the diameter of a pencil eraser)
- Appears after age 25
At Aspen Mountain Dermatology, we recommend year-round, daily use of sun protection. Every day. During both summer and winter months. When choosing a sunscreen, look for a product with the following characteristics.
- Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays).
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher.
- Water resistance.
The active ingredients in sunscreens fall into one of two categories—chemical sunscreens or physical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens contain organic (carbon-based) compounds, such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octisalate. These sunscreens work by creating a chemical reaction when exposed to UV light. They essentially absorb and change harmful UV rays into heat, and then release the heat from the skin. When using a chemical sunscreen, make sure that it contains active ingredients to block both UVB and UVA rays (in other words, one that is “broad spectrum”).
Physical sunscreens contain mineral ingredients, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They work by sitting on top of the skin and physically deflecting and scattering damaging UV rays away from the skin. Physical sunscreens block both UVA and UVB rays.
What is SPF?
SPF, or sun protective factor, is a measure of how much UV radiation is required to produce a burn on protected skin (skin with sunscreen on) as opposed to skin without protection.
- Elta MD®
- La Roche Posay Anthelios®
- Garden Goddess®
- California Baby®
- Blue Lizard®
Special Considerations for Infants and Children
It’s best to keep infants out of the sun as much as possible during their first 6 months. After that, we recommend a sunscreen specially formulated for babies 6 months and older. Typically, these sunscreens contain only physical UV blockers. For her own children, Dr. Pivik uses California Baby® (found at Target and on Amazon) and Elta MD Pure® (found at our office).
- The higher the SPF, generally the tackier the consistency (harder to spread).
- SPF 30 is usually fine for everyday use.
- Reapplication is very important. Reapply every 80 to 90 minutes or after swimming, sweating, or just getting wet.
- Apply enough. Often the correct amount of sunscreen for even coverage is more than you think.
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before outdoor activities.
- Limit sun exposure time, especially between 10 am to 4 pm
Sun Protective Clothing
You can purchase clothing made specifically for greater sun protection. Look for clothing that offers UPF (Ultraviolet Protective Factor) of at least 30. Most everyday clothing that’s not specifically made for outdoor use is typically only UPF 7 to 15.
- Some companies that offer sun-protective clothing are Coolibar®, Columbia®, Patagonia®, UVskinz®, and Exofficio®
- Click here for more information on sun-protective clothing.