15.1 PTC Cancer Life Phases: Skin Cancer Prevention
Prevention is clearly the best option when it comes to post-transplant cancer (PTC). Start here for an education in both text and video about preventative things you can do to avoid cancer or at least minimize the higher risks associated with our post-transplant lives given cancer friendly medications we take to stay alive.
Be sure to check out the recommended actions and associated links below for more resources and interesting research articles. There's even a link to a month planner resource to support your cancer prevention efforts.
Needless to say, the best treatment is to prevent post-transplant cancers in the first place. The advice of your transplant team in this regard is your first source, so ask, ask and then ask again!
Can Cancer Be Prevented?
Cancer can take years, or even decades to develop, yet many people believe that getting cancer is due to genes, fate or bad luck. But scientific research shows that our cancer risk depends on a combination of our genes, our lifestyle and our environment – things we can and cannot control. So, when we talk about cancer prevention, we focus on the areas we can control and how we can lower our risk. This is important: there are things you can do today that can help to prevent, delay, or even stop the cancer process at all stages of life.
Why Is Prevention Important?
Prevention is more important than ever. In the U.S., 1 in 4 people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. A cancer diagnosis can be devastating for patients and their families. The physical and emotional distress may be a compelling enough reason to help individuals lower their cancer risk. But we also know that rates of cancer are increasing in the United States, which translates to a growing burden in terms of treatment and costs for care. By preventing cancer, the number of new cases will be lowered and reduce the burden that cancer places on the population.
How Many Cancers Could Be Prevented
Around 40 percent of cancer cases are preventable, which means that 694,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in the U.S. every year by reducing our exposure to the cancer risk factors that we can control – including diet, weight and physical inactivity.
How do you live with the fact that you're at higher risk?
It is most important for you to understand how you are at higher risk from the sunlight that makes UV rays. Tanning beds and sunlamps also have UV rays, which people may not know. UV rays are the main cause of the damage that the sun can make. These UV rays can damage the DNA that tells your cells how to grow and divide, sometimes allowing them to grow out of control. Research has shown that the more sunburns you get, especially as a kid, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer.
What lifestyle choices can you make?The CDC encourages making the following choices:
- Avoid all sun exposure during the middle of the day when the sun is most intense.
- Wear sunscreen year-round, not just in the summertime.
- Wear clothing that covers your skin. Dark, tightly woven fabrics work best. Sunscreens don’t completely protect you from the sun’s UV rays.
- Avoid tanning beds since they emit UV rays.
- Be especially careful if you’re taking common prescription or over-the-counter drugs like antibiotics because they can make your skin more sensitive to the sunlight.
- Check your skin often for new skin growths or changes in color shape or size of any of your moles, freckles, bumps or birthmarks.
- Avoid harmful chemicals like arsenic, pesticides and herbicides that can be found in well water and other places like in some medicine and imported traditional herbal remedies.
Sun Safety . . .
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin
in as little as 15 minutes.
Follow these recommendations to help protect
yourself and your family.
You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelters before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.
When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.
If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.
For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.
If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Put on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of the exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.
- How sunscreen works. Most sunscreen products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor.
- SPF. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15.
- Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
- Expiration date. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
- Cosmetics. Some makeup and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they do not have at least SPF 15, don’t use them by themselves.
- Continue your reading here on the TRIO PTC web site, walking through the remaining LIVE topics of DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT and LONG TERM RECOVERY to round out your knowledge of this important education using the links below.
- Need inspiration? Watch the PATIENT CANCER SURVIVAL testimonials in the LINKS section of this site (if you are willing to add your own PTC survival story, write to info@TRIOweb.org with contact information).
- Review the 10 Best Practices offered in the LINKS section and build your own life plan with those that apply to your life (do you have additional 'best practices' you would like to suggest be added, go to the BLOG from the LINKS section and make a contribution to that topic - we may even add yours to our list!).
- Go to the BLOG section under LINKS and review the topics there to see if you find one of interest to you. Add your own comments to that topic if you can, to help others with similar interests.
- Check out the research article links below for more insights.
- Download the 30 Day Cancer Prevention Planner to help with your own daily habit development.
- Read: Reduce Your Cancer Risk with Physical Activity
- Read: Cut unhealthy behaviors to reduce cancer mortality by one third
- Read: 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations
The following interactive learning tool is intended to assess understanding and reinforce learning. While your results are anonymous, the combined scoring is collected as a means of identifying weaknesses in content presentation for future updates to support learning improvement. Please enjoy this tool as a
fun and learning experience!