How to Best Protect Yourself Against Skin Cancer
- Leni Klum, the 19-year-old daughter of “America's Got Talent” judge and supermodel Heidi Klum, shared a photo of herself in a bikini on her Instagram story this week and has gotten her fans worried.
- Dr. Cecilia Larocca, a dermatologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, spoke with SurvivorNet in an earlier interview and suggests people use nothing less than SPF 30 and reapply it every two hours. Additionally, sunscreen should be a broad spectrum, says Dr. Larocca, meaning it covers both UVB and UVA rays.
- According to Dr. Larocca, people usually only get about 50% of the SPF on the label. Therefore, if you're using SPF 60, you're actually nearing 30 SPF of protection. To be positive you're receiving the right protection, Dr. Larocca also recommends using sunscreen every two hours and wearing protective clothing, like sunglasses or a hat.
The worrisome photo, which revealed the actress’ sunburnt back and her seemingly painful tan lines as she’s posed lying facedown on a bed, was accompanied by some text reading, “obviously didn’t use enough sunscreen.”Read More
Klum’s most recent sunburn sparked fans to look back at last year’s photo and reveal their concerns via commenting.
“Congratulations on successful skin damage and aging,” one critic wrote, while another commented, “that must have hurt soooooooo terribly.”
A third person wrote, “I got scared! When you look through the photos of Leni, you think pretty young woman, and then you see a photo like this. Bad role model! Risking a sunburn! You should always protect your skin and not show that you are unable to take precautions.”
However, some commenters were less harsh, with one saying, “Listen to all the jumped up comments about skin cancer haha. You look good babe. Nothing but a bit of aftersun can sort out.”
Although Klum seems to be doing alright after enjoying some time in the sun, aside from her reddish skin color, it’s important to know that too much sun can lead to sun poisoning and skin cancer.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, sun poisoning isn't a formal medical term. But it can be characterized as “a severe sunburn that seems similar to an allergic reaction.”
Sun poisoning can cause a range of symptoms (depending on the severity) including:
- Severe rash
- Blistering or peeling skin
- Shortness of breath
- Blistering of the lips
Reducing Your Skin Cancer Risk
Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue, previously spoke with SurvivorNet about some things you can do every day to help minimize your risk of skin cancer.
- Avoid the sun during peak hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect the tops of our heads, the tops of our ears and the delicate area around the eye.
- Wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen and make sure to reapply every two hours or after excessive sweating or swimming.
- Have yearly skin checks (with a professional) because it's difficult to evaluate areas all over the body.
- Avoid tanning beds. There are no "good" tanning beds, and they can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer.
- And remember that skin protection is equally important all year round.
“My patients ask me all the time, 'Do I really need sunscreen every day, all year round?' The answer is yes,” Dr. Engelman told SurvivorNet.
“People think they only need sun protection when they're in the bright, warm sunshine. But the reality is, we can get sun damage at any time throughout the year, even in the cold, wintry months. Think about when you go skiing. That's a very high risk. Even though it's cold, our skin should be protected.”
Dr. Cecilia Larocca, a dermatologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, also spoke with SurvivorNet in an earlier interview and suggests people use nothing less than SPF 30 and reapply it every two hours. Additionally, sunscreen should be a broad spectrum, says Dr. Larocca, meaning it covers both UVB and UVA rays.
According to Dr. Larocca, people usually only get about 50% of the SPF on the label. Therefore, if you're using SPF 60, you're actually nearing 30 SPF of protection. To be positive you're receiving the right protection, Dr. Larocca also recommends using sunscreen every two hours and wearing protective clothing, like sunglasses or a hat.
Paying Attention to Your Skin
Keeping an eye on the moles or growths on your skin is an easy way to keep an eye out for melanoma. Changes to a mole you've had for a while or developing a new growth you don't remembering having on your skin could be signs of this cancer, according to SurvivorNet's experts.
Dr. Larocca offers SurvivorNet an overview of things to look out for with moles using the ABCDE self-screening method:
- Asymmetrical moles: “If you drew a line straight down the center of the mole, would the sides match?”
- Borders that are “irregular, jagged, not smooth.” It can also stand for bleeding.
- Colors: “Multiple distinct colors in the mole.”
- Diameter: “Larger than 6mm, about the size of a pencil head eraser.”
- Evolution: “This may be the most important,” she says. “Anything that is changing over time such as gaining color, losing color, painful, itching, hurting, changing shape, etc.”
Spots on our skin are often harmless, but it's still important to keep an eye on them and reach out to your doctor if you see any changes or find a growth anywhere on your skin that looks suspicious.
Learning About Melanoma
A form of skin cancer that everyone should be aware of is melanoma, is a type of skin cancer that starts in the same cells that give your skin, hair and eyes their color. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 99,610 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States in 2023
And while the ACS says the risk of melanoma increases as people age with the average age of diagnosis being 65, the disease is not uncommon among those younger than 30. In fact, it's one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young women).
The disease can develop from an existing mole or appear as a dark or pink growth on the skin even in places on the body that never see the sun. It's also known to be the deadliest form of skin cancer.
“Melanomas are the deadliest type of skin cancer because they have a tendency to spread to other parts of the body,” explains Dr. Anna Pavlick, a medical oncologist with Weill Cornell Medicine who specializes in treating skin cancer.
Ninety percent of melanomas are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This means excessive time in the sun even as a child puts you at a higher risk.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff