The basic rules of skin cancer prevention never change: apply with a broad-spectrum sunscreen (it blocks both UVA and UVB rays) daily, check for suspicious moles every three months (see skincancer.org for a list of warning signs), and go for annual screenings with a dermatologist. Newer research also suggests maintaining a healthy weight, staying fit, and eating a variety of antioxidant-rich foods, like colorful fruits and veggies. Here, three experts weigh in with tips for extra skincare protection:
Be alert for skin cancer if you’re at risk for breast or ovarian cancer.
Large genetic studies have found that people with the BRCA2 gene mutation, which ups your risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, are two and a half times more likely to develop melanoma.
TIP: If a close relative (parent, grandparent, or sibling) has had breast or ovarian cancer or melanoma, see a dermatologist every six months to a year and practice safe sun strategies.
—Lynn Schuchter, M.D., oncologist, Abramson Cancer Center, the University of Pennsylvania
Check your whole body, even under your toenails.
Basal and squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common types of skin cancer, tend to form on the head, face, neck, hands, and arms, which get the greatest sun exposure. Melanoma most often occurs in places where you’ve been sunburned, but it can show up anywhere on the body, including under fingernails and toenails. (This is especially true for dark-skinned people, including African Americans.)
TIP: Don’t ignore any part of your body when looking for suspicious moles or spots, and do not hesitate to see a dermatologist or doctor if you have any concerns, even if you have a darker skin tone. Although dark-skinned people have lower rates of skin cancer, they’re also more likely to die from the condition since they tend to delay medical care and only discover a problem once the skin cancer has progressed.
—Vilma Cokkinides, Ph.D., program director, Risk Factor Surveillance, American Cancer Society
Wear sunscreen if you sit by a window or in a car for extended periods.
Standard windows block UVB rays, but UVA light wafts in freely. TIP: Avoid sitting by window glass for more than an hour a day whether it’s sunny or not. If you do, wear sunscreen and a long-sleeved top to protect your arms and shoulders. Consider replacing the clear glass windows of your car with reflective glass, which blocks more than 75 percent of UV rays.
—Henry W. Lim, M.D., F.A.A.D., vice president, the American Academy of Dermatology