Protecting your skin from skin cancer - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Protecting your skin from skin cancer

Sun damage has a cumulative effect, so start protecting your skin early in life to help minimize your risk for skin cancer later in life. (Photo source: WLOX) Sun damage has a cumulative effect, so start protecting your skin early in life to help minimize your risk for skin cancer later in life. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the US and the numbers continue to grow. After my own experiences with skin cancer, I wanted to remind people about how to help protect your skin and to help you spot skin cancer in the early stages. 

Dermatologist Dr. Angela Wingfield says that at least by age 50 everyone should have regular skin checks. But that doesn't mean you can ignore your skin when you're younger, because skin cancer can strike at any age. 

"The number one cancer across all cancers for people 25 to 29 is melanoma, and tanning beds play into that in a big way. So it's definitely not just a disease for older people."

And melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer.

"I think people tend to think of things on the skin as not a big deal, not enough to worry about. And a lot of those things can be a big deal and some of these cancers can kill you." 

That's why it's important to know what your skin looks like. Be aware of moles and other markings so you recognize changes in your skin.

"Being proactive about what's on your skin and how long it has been there," Wingfield said. "If you don't look at your skin regularly, how on earth will you know if something is new?"

Having an idea of what to look for certainly helped me. I went to Dr. Wingfield specifically because of a new black dot on my calf that turned out to be melanoma I had surgery for two years ago. Again recently, she checked out a small pink spot on my nose that turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. Both were caught in the early stages.

"It's all about catching things early and it's so much easier to catch skin cancer early because it's right there on the surface."

It's also about prevention. 

"Around here people need to protect their skin all year. We have so many beautiful days here and there's a lot more sun here than other latitudes." 

She says wear protective clothing and hats; avoid the sun during the time of day when the rays are the most intense. Use sunscreen and plenty of it. And reapply often.

"Remember that sun reflects off of water and sand, so even if you're sitting under an umbrella at the beach you still need sunscreen because you're getting a lot of reflective rays."

And don't choose just any sunscreen. She says you want at least a 30 SPF sunscreen. And check the active ingredients and choose a sunscreen with titanium or zinc. 

"You're looking for a zinc or titanium percentage between seven and nine percent; a lot of companies throw it in at two or three percent, just to say they have it in there." 

And remember sun damage has a cumulative effect, so start protecting your skin early in life to help minimize your risk for skin cancer later in life.

"It has a lot to do with genetics and how much exposure you've had. But by age 65, 55 percent of Americans will have skin cancer."

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