You Asked, We Answer: City of Hope Doctors Tackle Your Skin Cancer Questions

May 7, 2018 | by Dory Benford

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., with over 5 million cases diagnosed annually? Because the disease is so prevalent, it’s important to know how to protect yourself.
 
With that in mind, we asked our audience on social media if they had any questions for our skin cancer doctors. They did. 
 
Here, our City of Hope dermatologists answer your questions about sun safety and skin cancer.
I'm black and I don't tan or burn easily. Can I still get skin cancer? Do I still have to wear sunscreen every day?
Dark-skinned people are far less likely to get skin cancer than fair-skinned people; however, it can be more dangerous because it often escapes early detection. Everyone, regardless of age, gender or race, should protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. 
What is the right amount of SPF to use on a daily basis?
You should use enough sunscreen to generously coat any skin that will not be covered by clothing. In general, about 1 ounce or a shot glass full. You should choose a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” with an SPF of at least 30. And don’t forget to protect your lips with a lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of 30 or higher.
A physician once said if a mole has hair on it, that it can be cancerous. Could that be true?
There is no scientific evidence that a mole with a hair is more likely to be cancerous. However, you should check moles and look for the ABCDE signs. Moles with any of the following characteristics should be checked by a board-certified dermatologist:
A. Asymmetry: The two halves of the mole do not match.
B. Border: The mole has an uneven border.
C. Color: The mole has multiple shades of tan, brown, or black or has unusual colors such as red, purple or blue.
D. Diameter: The mole is larger than 6mm or the size of a pencil eraser.
E. Evolution: The mole has changed in size, shape or color. 
What can we do to protect ourselves from skin cancer?
You can protect yourself by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, wearing dark, tightly woven fabrics or clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), avoiding the sun during peak hours, wearing sunglasses and avoiding UV radiation from tanning beds or other UV lights. Performing a monthly self-examination of your skin can also help to detect issues early.
Does the SPF number on sunscreen really make a difference?
According to the American Cancer Society you should choose a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the more protection. However, the higher you go, the smaller the difference.
SPF 15 30 50 100
% UVB rays filtered 93% 97% 98% 99%
For example, an SPF of 15 will filter 93% of UVB rays, and an SPF of 30 will filter 97% of UVB rays, however, an SPF of 50 or 100 will filter out 98% and 99% of UVB rays, respectively.
What percentage of skin cancer cases are fatal?
According to the American Cancer Society, about one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. In the U.S., melanoma causes one death every hour. However, if detected early, while it’s still localized, it can be cured. 
What SPF should dark-skinned people wear?
UV rays from the sun or other sources can damage skin regardless of age, gender or race. Everyone should protect themselves by not only wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, but by wearing protective clothing and trying to avoid the sun during peak hours.
 
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