Skin Cancer Awareness Month – Prevention and Post-Surgery Care
Ah, springtime is finally here, and summer is just around the corner! As you may know, it is more important now than ever to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
During these seemingly interchangeable weather conditions, daily skincare can easily be passed off as something that isn’t necessary for everyday care. Well, that couldn’t be far from the truth. While you may think that you have thick skin, it doesn’t exactly protect you from the sun. Just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean it’s not there because the sun’s still shining on cloudy days, and much more intensely when you can see it.
Our bodies are made up of several skin cells and our skin goes through constant changes as we age. The first layer of skin is called the epidermis (the skin we can touch and see) and the second layer is called dermis (containing blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles.) Not only can skin change in color, but it changes in structure, elasticity, and moisture! You may have heard this once or twice but it is nevertheless the truth. Our skin is one of the most important organs of our bodies and this is because skin makes up about 12-16% of our body’s total weight. Your hair and your nails are considered skin… Yes, that’s right!
What are some of the skin’s functions? Skin can protect us from stress, pressure, acting as a barrier to most mechanical impacts that can harm the skin. It can protect from external fluids such as water and rain acting as a waterproof protector. It is also naturally composed with a layer of oil that prevents many infections from harming or spreading throughout the skin.
We should always make sure that we are friendly to our skin so our skin will be able to protect us when it needs to. Our skin does so much for us, so our bodies outside organ should be protected on the outside as much as the inside.
Skin Cancer Awareness
Skin Cancer can be a nervous topic. When not educated on what causes skin cancer or how to prevent it our skin doesn’t have its best to chance to be protected properly the way it needs to.
Regular outside activity is an important part of developing a healthy human lifestyle and extremely beneficial to our growth as human beings. The problem comes in when we don’t take active measures to protect our skin from the sun. Remember, just because you don’t see the sun doesn’t mean it is not there.
According to Skincancer.org, more people have been diagnosed with skin cancer over the past three decades than all other cancers combined. Skin Cancer does not affect one skin tone more than another. Specific types of skin cancer can vary depending on your ethnic background but regardless of that fact skin is skin. So no matter your ethnic group, you can still be at risk to it.
How is it caused? Most often it is caused by ultraviolet radiation. There are two types, Ultraviolet Radiation A (UVA) and Ultraviolet Radiation B (UVB), which occur from exposure to intense sunlight or tanning beds. This provokes defects in the skin, causing an uncontrolled amount of skin cell build up. Unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells makes the skin react in a way to overproduce skin cells and develops malignant tumors. To learn more information on what causes skin cancers and how to prevent it visit SkinCancer.org.
Skin Cancer Prevention
Protecting our skin from the sun takes a few minutes and regardless of how invincible we feel on any day, our skin needs to be taken care of. It is not recommended to be outside without sunscreen. If you are, longer than 20 minutes without applying sunscreen can be detrimental to your skin health and can depend on how fast you burn, this time can be cut in half.
Sunscreen should be used everyday and when shopping for one, you should aim to get a sunscreen that is waterproof too. Without this mechanism, all the good stuff your skin needs for its best possible protection can wash off either by sweat or water.
It is recommended to grab one with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher for the best protection. If you are active in sports sunscreen should be used without question and there are several kinds of sunscreen that sports athletes can use. It’s a good idea to reapply sunscreen every 30 mins – 1 hr you are exposed to heat, rain, or pool to ensure you have constant skin protection from sun damage. Anything lower may prevent you from redness, premature aging, and sunburn but it will not protect you from skin cancer. For options on sunscreen, click here.
Here are some tips that you can incorporate daily to prevent skin cancer:
- Do your best to stay in the shade. The best hours are between 10 am – 4 pm. Yes, Vitamin D is still good for the skin. However, if using the sun, the best times to take care of your daily dose are during the early morning hours when the sun is not at its peak. The more intense the sun, the more shade you need. You can take Vitamin D supplements as an alternative.
- Stay hydrated. During hot days, just about anything cold seems good enough to cool the body off. However, sugary drinks should be avoided. The healthiest choice is to drink water and plenty of it. Our body is made up of about 60% water for a reason. Water not only keeps us hydrated, it regulates our body temperature and keeps our cells to keep growing and reproduce healthily.
- Avoid the tanning beds. Period. Do not sacrifice your skin for a fashionable sunkissed glow. No matter how trendy, there are other safer ways to get a nice tan without having to expose yourself to UV harmful rays in the long run.
- Avoid Tanning through a Window. The proper exposure to sun outside naturally creates a healthy Vitamin D balance your body needs from UVA and UVB. Tanning through a glass tinted window combats that balance because it’s filtering out the UVA compound you need to make Vitamin D and will not reap the benefits.
- Cover it. If you know you will be exposed to the sun for prolonged periods during the day, do what’s necessary to cover up anything exposed such as your eyes, head, and limbs. Along with sunscreen, wear breathable light-colored clothing, hats and UV-blocking glasses to block the sun.
- Keep newborns out of the sun completely. Newborns 6 months and younger have much more tender and sensitive skin and it doesn’t react well to harsh weather. If this is unavoidable, make sure they are covered up well and in the shade away from the sun. Sunscreen for babies, that is waterproof can be found here.
- Self-examine. Periodically check your body for any signs of skin cancer. If you believe that you see anything questionable, or out of the ordinary, make an appointment with a physician.
Post Surgery Care
Overall, it’s important to know that taking care of your skin post-surgery is just as important if not more important than pre-surgery.
Post-surgery, it is critical to follow the instructions given to you by your surgical doctor and health physicians. Surgery procedures and instructions can vary depending on how severe your skin condition may be and what type of cancer you have. There may be slightly different rules so taking care of post-surgical wounds as instructed will put you on the best possible path to recovery.
If you are unsure of what is required of you or what to expect to discuss any and all questions with your doctor and the surgical team if possible.
Here are a few basic yet critical tips post-surgery:
- Get plenty of rest. Rest is for everyone. We all need rest for our body to recover and repair from the day. Post surgery rest is more critical to heal from wounds and will speed up overall recovery.
- Balance your diet. Drink plenty of water and do not take any vitamins or medications without the approval of your doctor. Even if you took them prior to surgery, it’s safe to ask first. Your doctor is more knowledgeable about what may or may not counteract with new prescriptions given to you.
- Cover your body. Post surgery, you’ll want to prevent any further damage to surgical wounds. Unless otherwise suggested, do not go outside without a hat or long sleeves if you will be in the sun for a lengthy amount of time.
You can expect the surgical team to provide you with:
- Information on when to clean wounds and change bandages.
- Medication instructions on how to take them and when you need them.
- When you can expect to get back to activities that involve a change in skin temperature or balance such as a trip to the gym, any outdoor activities, or make up.
- How to schedule your next appointment and what to expect at your visit.
Millions are diagnosed with Skin Cancer each year in various age groups. It is a serious disease and unfortunately, many people are not aware of how it works, how they can prevent it, or may not feel they are at risk. Anyone is at risk if they are not protecting their skin.
If you have been diagnosed with Skin Cancer, you do not have to be alone. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Ask your doctor about Skin Cancer support groups in your community.
If you are looking to get additional resources on how you can form a support group in your community, visit SkinCancer.org. They provide viable information on how you can get supplies from them to host a local health fair and a free lesson plan for middle to high school students to promote Skin Care Awareness.