Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, and the second most common in 15-30-year-olds. In the U.S. alone, more than five million cases will be diagnosed this year. The primary cause of skin cancer is UV light, either by prolonged sun exposure or tanning beds.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Melanoma is the most dangerous, but least common form of skin cancer.
While sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the sun entirely. If you know you’ll be spending time in the sun, use these tips to protect your skin:
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. If you plan on going to the beach or pool, you need to apply a full ounce (about two tablespoons) of sunscreen every two hours while outside.
- Sun protective clothing is now widely available, including hats, which are probably more effective than sunscreen alone. Pick up a wide-brimmed hat to protect your scalp, face and ears.
- There is no “safe” base tan. Tanning prior to a vacation in an attempt to help prevent sunburns is dangerous and not very effective.
- Do not indoor tan! The World Health Organization classifies indoor tanning devices as "carcinogenic to humans," which is their highest cancer risk category. Risk for developing both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers is significantly higher in people who use indoor tanning facilities.
- Reduce wrinkles and dark spots associated with premature aging by taking care of your skin and using sun protection every day.
The earlier melanoma and other skin cancers are detected, the easier they are to treat. Therefore, it is extremely important to seek the advice of a medical professional if you detect an abnormal area on your skin. Our area is fortunate as Cone Health has a network of dermatologists, cancer care specialists and other related healthcare providers dedicated to educating the community about skin cancer and providing exceptional treatment.
Dr. Puneet Jolly is a dermatologist at Alamance Dermatology and a member of the Cone Health Medical Staff. Dr. Jolly received a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and immunology from the University of Miami in 1997. He received a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2004 and completed his medical degree in 2006 at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Dr. Jolly completed a dermatology residency at the University of North Carolina in 2012.