The Doctor Is In: Skin Cancer Awareness

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Content is sponsored and provided by Henry Ford Health System

Laurie Kohen, M.D., Henry Ford Health System dermatologist.

One of the unique features of living in Michigan is experiencing the change of seasons. But exposure to the sun is year-long - even in the cold months of January and February - and can be harmful to your health.

More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. And one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70.

Excessive exposure to the sun and its ultraviolet rays are associated with most skin cancers including the most deadly one - melanoma. Research shows that indoor tanning may cause an estimated 400,000 cases of skin cancer each year alone in the U.S., says the American Academy of Dermatology. Even one indoor tanning session can increase your risk of developing melanoma by 20 percent, squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent.  More people develop skin cancer because of indoor tanning than people who develop lung cancer because of smoking.
Accordingly, there are ways for you to protect yourself and reduce your risk for developing skin cancer:

+ Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both the sun’s UVA and UBA rays.
+ Avoid the sun when its rays are the strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
+ Wear long-sleeved pants and shirts, a hat and sunglasses, when possible.
+ Re-apply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
+ Be mindful of the sun’s rays reflecting off water, snow and sand.
+ Avoid tanning beds.

Like other cancers, skin cancer is most treatable when found early. Perform regular skin self-exams and see your doctor if you notice any new or suspicious spots on your body. See a board-certified dermatologist at least once a year for a skin exam.

Henry Ford’s Pigmented Lesions Clinic, the first of its kind in Michigan and led by Dr. Kohen, is geared for people at higher risk for skin cancer who have a large quantity of moles or a history of melanoma.

Vitamin D is essential for skeletal health, especially in children and the elderly. It comes from 3 sources: food, sunlight and supplements. People should consult with their doctor about whether a Vitamin D supplement is recommended.

Despite recent reports to the contrary on the internet, scientific evidence shows sunscreen is safe to use and wearing it on a regular basis protects against skin cancer.