How to Reduce Your Risk of Actinic Keratosis and Skin Cancer

Woman with sunscreen on her face How to Reduce Your Risk of Actinic Keratosis and Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a common, easily treatable form of cancer that impacts millions of Americans each year. Preventing skin cancer and precancerous lesions like actinic keratosis is possible, but it requires knowledge and a proactive attitude.

What to Know About Skin Cancer

How Skin Cancer Happens

Though skin cancer can be treated easily, it isn’t always that simple. Because skin cancer can look like other, less serious conditions or appear in hard to notice places, it’s not always easy to find. Skin cancer, as you may know, forms most often as the result of sun damage. Sun damage includes tans and sunburns, but can also be invisible to the naked eye. The sun’s light contains ultraviolet radiation that can kill skin cells. When skin cells die, new cells are created to take their place. When new skin cells develop, mutations can occur. Skin cancer is a mutation in which skin cells replicate at an excessive pace, and can spread to other parts of the body. Skin cancer on the surface of the skin is not a huge risk to your health, but it can quickly metastasize and spread to vital internal organs. This is when skin cancer becomes deadly. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer characterized by mole-like lesions on the skin, is not the most common form of skin cancer, but it is the most deadly. Since melanoma often appears as small spots on the skin, and it spreads quickly, it can spread too much to be treatable. The best way to detect skin cancer early is to perform regular self-evaluations of your skin, and to schedule yearly visits with your dermatologist.

Preventing Skin Cancer

There are many types of skin cancer, but all of them are caused by sun damage. Sun damage isn’t the only possible cause, but it is the most common. So, avoiding sun damage is the best method for preventing skin cancer. It’s very unrealistic to never experience any sun damage in your life, but it's the accumulation that most often results in skin cancer’s development. Sunscreen is your best bet when it comes to avoiding sun damage. Sunscreen comes in two different forms, physical and chemical. Physical sunscreen actually deflects harmful UV radiation away from the skin, preventing its absorption. Chemical sunscreens absorb the light and diffuse the radiation harmlessly on the surface of the skin.

Actinic keratosis is a condition caused by sun damage. The condition is sometimes known as solar keratosis. An actinic keratosis lesion, or AK, is often visible on the surface of the skin. They appear where sun damage is most often sustained, on the head, back, shoulders and arms. Many people develop several AKs at once, though it’s possible for only one to form. While AKs themselves pose little danger to your health, they are unsightly and irritating in some cases. About 10% of all actinic keratoses become skin cancer. As a result, you’re going to want to treat any AK that you detect. Treating an AK is far simpler than treating skin cancer, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with treating it before it could become dangerous.

Other Risk Reduction Ideas

It’s impossible to fully avoid the sun and live a happy life. You’re going to be in the sunlight many times throughout the year. Some mistakenly believe that sun damage is only possible in the summer months. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sunlight contains ultraviolet light all year round, and it can always harm you. Always wear sunscreen, no matter the season. Many cosmetic products and moisturizers contain daily sunscreen, which are excellent at preventing sun damage. While you’re going to be out in the sun, you don’t have to stay in it for extended periods of time. Find shade whenever possible, and avoid direct sunlight as much as you can. Wear protective clothing like wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeves and pants when possible. When it’s not, find thin and breathable clothing that is designed to protect from ultraviolet radiation.

There are other methods out there for preventing skin cancer, but the truth is it’s not always avoidable. If you believe you have skin cancer or precancer, do not hesitate to contact the doctors at Northeast Dermatology Associates.

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