Since we’re in the middle of Melanoma Awareness Month, it’s important to keep talking about and raising awareness about skin cancer. Although melanoma might seem like a simple mole gone rogue, skin cancer can metastasize just like other cancers— this can lead to a full-scale cancer diagnosis that is difficult to beat. Here at Academic Alliance in Dermatology, we want you to catch skin cancer before it gets that far. Better yet, let’s talk about a few melanoma prevention tips— this way, you can reduce your risk starting now.
Melanoma is a type of cancer, essentially meaning that rogue cells start reproducing and are left unchecked by the body. While melanoma can’t necessarily impede bodily function by growing a mass on your arm, serious complications can occur if it spreads. There are ways to prevent melanoma; however, some of us may be predisposed and will reach a point where treatment is required.
Melanoma treatment strategies depend on how extensive your cancer has become; for this reason, we recommend that you try to stay ahead of it! The sooner your skin cancer is noticed, the easier its treatment will be.
Melanoma Prevention Tip #1: Protect Your Skin
It might seem counterintuitive to avoid sun exposure when we all know how important it is to produce vitamin D in our bodies. However, one thing we must take into consideration is that the sun’s radiation is more intense now due to global warming. Combined with some skin types’ natural photosensitivity, unprotected sun exposure today is simply a gamble with skin cancer for tomorrow. In addition, pollutants are known to be absorbed by and a damaging component to the skin. Here at the AAD, we recommend that you limit your sun exposure, cover up when possible, use sunblock, and make sure to clean your skin well after being in the city.
Melanoma Prevention Tip #2: Avoid Tobacco & Alcohol
Time and time again, tobacco and alcohol use and abuse have proven to be related to increased cancer risks. For example, a study from 2003 showed that “melanoma risk was elevated with increasing alcohol use…” and “smoking for long durations compared to never smoking was inversely related to melanoma risk…”. Therefore, at AAD we recommend that smokers attempt to quit smoking and that patients limit their intake of alcohol as much as possible.
Melanoma Prevention Tip #3: Avoid Immunosuppressants
In a normal, healthy body, precancerous cells and mutations are caught and eliminated by the immune system. Some drugs used in the treatment of autoimmune disorders can disrupt this preliminary screening process that helps defend our bodies against cancer. It’s essential to weigh the risks and the benefits of any treatment plan with your health care team; if you’re predisposed to skin cancer, make sure you take extra precautions while on immunosuppressants.
Melanoma Prevention Tip #4: Eat a Healthy Diet
Everything we ingest either fuels our body or slows it down and makes it more susceptible to disease. While there’s no perfect diet for everyone, we know that antioxidants can be beneficial in eliminating free radicals from the body— this is an important consideration, especially if you live in an area with high pollution. Also, immune-boosting foods can help our bodies stay ahead in the pre-cancer fight. Give your body the fuel it needs to contend with the constant pressure from the outside world to disrupt normal cell function.
Melanoma Prevention Tip #5: Get Checked Regularly
Besides keeping an eye out for yourself, you should have a licensed skin cancer professional check for abnormal spots and moles. When in doubt about a strange lump or color, don’t hesitate to get it checked out! Since skin cancer can develop so rapidly, we recommend that you get checked once a year. If a close family member has had skin cancer, you may wish to be seen more frequently than this.
If you don’t currently have a skin cancer specialist lined up, we’re more than happy to help. Our experienced staff can help give you the peace of mind you need, especially since it’s hard to check your own back. Above all, do everything you can to protect yourself from melanoma taking hold of your skin. Keep your skin safe, your body fueled properly, and get checked by a professional every year.