More than 3.5 million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year, and about 75,000 of those cases will be melanoma, an invasive, deadly form of skin cancer. With summer just around the corner, now is the ideal time to learn a little bit about how to protect yourself from skin cancer.
First, schedule a skin cancer screening. It’s quick – usually no more than five minutes. Because skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, the doctor will check you from head to toe to look for suspicious spots or lesions. If the doctor locates a spot that looks suspicious, a tiny sample will be taken for evaluation by a lab. If the evaluation determines the lesion is cancerous, your doctor will discuss the options for removing the lesion to make sure all the cancerous cells are removed.
The health benefits of a skin cancer screening can’t be overstated. After your exam is complete, the dermatologist can provide you with a recommendation of how often you should be screened to check for developing cancers. Some people may benefit from annual screenings, while others may need more frequent screenings based on their personal and family health histories or other factors.
Most health insurance plans include health benefits that cover several types of skin cancer procedures as well as regular skin cancer screenings. If your health benefits don’t cover the cost of screenings or if you’d just rather avoid the copay, you can also find free screening events at many hospitals and health centers. The American Academy of Dermatology website also provides a tool to help you find screening sites in your state.
In addition to screenings, there are other skin cancer prevention steps you can take to reduce your risks for cancer:
- Wear sunscreen and lip balm every day. Make sure both provide adequate protection: look for sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 and provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays (it may be labeled “broad spectrum). Reapply sunscreen and lip balm throughout the day, especially if you’re swimming or perspiring. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the back of your neck and your ears.
- Wear sunglasses with UV protection to prevent sun damage to your eyes.
- Avoid going out in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., as this is when the sun’s rays are their most intense.
- Wear clothing that protects you from the sun. How can you tell if your clothes offer enough protection? Hold them up to the sun, and if you can see light through them, some of the sun’s rays are getting through. Don’t forget a hat.
If you’re not sure if your health benefits include skin cancer screenings, review your benefits or give our office a call at 707-444-9292 and we’ll help you determine your coverage. Most importantly, don’t put off having a skin cancer screening. It’s five minutes of your time that could help save your life.