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Now you know: Protecting yourself from skin cancer

Author: Lauren Talarico
Published: 5:43 PM CDT May 24, 2019
Updated: 10:22 PM CDT May 24, 2019
 

Besides avoiding the sun and wearing lots of clothing, sunscreen is the best protection there is.

HOUSTON — More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined: 1 in 5 Americans will develop it. But if you live in Texas, your chances are even higher: 1 in 3.

What causes skin cancer?

“99.9 percent of the time, it’s the sun,” explained Dr. Tarek Fakhouri with Skin Cancer Specialists in Sugar Land. “Our sun exposure is much greater (in Texas), we are closer to the equator.”

Dr. Fakhouri said research shows skin cancer rates are growing.

“It really is becoming a public health epidemic, and I don’t think enough people are aware of how serious this is and how common it is," Dr. Fakhouri said.

There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma can be deadly and all three can be hard to detect.

“I wish that all skin cancers would hurt, bleed, look ugly, but most of the time, they don’t look like much at all," Dr. Fakhouri said.

Dr. Fakhouri said when trying to determine if a mole is something more dangerous, remember the “ABCDE’s” of melanoma: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, evolving.

However, Dr. Fakhouri warns most skin cancers don’t look like a mole. 

“Skin cancers can look like a pimple, they can look like a boil, they can look like a spider bite, they can look like a rash," he said.

The recommendation is if a strange mark, mole or skin irritation lasts more than four weeks it’s time to see a doctor. 

The best prevention is skin protection. Dr. Fakhouri recommends a sunscreen with at least SPF 30. He recommends sunblocks that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because they block the most UV rays and are safe for skin and the environment.

As far as the best brand?

“The most important thing I tell my patients is to find one that you actually like the feeling of on your skin. That sounds a little trivial, but you can get the most fancy, expensive sunscreen and if you don’t like how it feels you’re not going to use it," he said.

And it needs to be reapplied every 2 hours. Besides avoiding the sun and wearing lots of clothing, it’s the best protection there is.

“One-third of the Texans are going to get skin cancer at some point," Dr. Fakhouri said. "That’s pretty amazing, and it’s a little bit scary. So it’s really important for people to be vigilant and to make sure that you see dermatologist on a regular basis.”

 

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