Many of you know that I have had two malignant melanoma surgeries (January, 1969, and October, 1970 (Please read my book, Cancer Sucks A True Story) and was considered a cancer survivor after five years. I was cancer free until 2006 when diagnosed with colon cancer. But regardless of the elapsed time, I have checked my body daily for changes to pigmented areas of my skin. I am now seeing a dermatologist that readily admits that Agent Orange, because of the changing attitude among physicians pertaining to what can and cannot cause melanoma, can also be added to the list of already known causes of this deadly cancer. Though many dermatologists still hold true to their original beliefs, it is refreshing to my spiritual well-being that there are some that now validate what I have believed for decades.
Prevention is certainly better than having to go through diagnosis and treatment of any type of cancer. So, pertaining to skin cancer, especially melanoma, the following is a list of possible preventative measures that can help us eliminate melanoma.
• Limit exposure to UV radiation, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, including UV from sunlight and artificial sources.
• Use a broad spectrum sunscreen for UV and UVA with a SPF of at least 30. Apply one ounce (a normal shot glass for most of my friends and family) of sunscreen approximately 15 to 20 minutes before going into the sun. Reapply every few hours after exposure to water through swimming and/or sweating.
• Seek shade whenever possible. If you can stay out of the sun for long periods of time, do so. Even with sunscreen prolonged exposure should be avoided.
• Where protective clothing when possible; long-sleeve shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hat, and wraparound sunglasses that block UV rays.
• Use caution near reflective environments; water, snow, sand, concrete, tanning devices (like some of us did as teenagers with tin foil), etc.
• Do not burn. Severe burns, especially during childhood, increase chances for basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Just one blistering sunburn can double the chance later in life.
• Get plenty of Vitamin D from a healthy diet (a future blog on cancer and nutrition).
• Check medications to see if they can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. This applies to over-the-counter drugs as well as prescriptions. Check with your physician and/or pharmacist if you are unsure.
• Regular self exams.
• At least a yearly checkup with a physician or dermatologist.
• Keep newborns out of the sun. Use sunscreen on babies only after they are six months old, or ask your physician for advice.
• Keep your immune system healthy (a future blog exploring immunotherapy).
Please check your skin on a regular basis. It can save your life, or the life of someone you love. And what is better than living longer than expected, and enjoying it.