Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and Puerto Rico. As residents of Puerto Rico —an island where the sun shines bright all year long— we should learn more about the prevalence of this condition and what we can do to help prevent it.
How does skin cancer occur?
Most types of skin cancer are the result of excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays like those produced by the sun. That is to say, being exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time over the years may lead to skin cancer. There are other risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer, such as:
- Having fair skin
- Having freckled skin or skin that sunburns easily
- Having blond or red hair
- Having a family history of skin cancer
- Being an elderly person
Once it develops on the skin, cancer can spread to other vital organs, so it is of utmost importance that it be detected and treated in time or, even better, prevented.
How can we reduce the risk of cancer?
One of the best steps we can take to prevent this type of cancer is to protect ourselves from the sun’s UV rays. Keep the following suggestions in mind whenever you spend time in the sun:
- Stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Wear protective clothing that covers most of your body.
- Wear a hat to protect your face.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
- If you’re sweating or in the water, reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours.
When should I visit the doctor?
It is always a good idea to visit a dermatologist once a year, especially if you are at a higher risk for skin cancer. However, you should see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of the following changes on your skin:
- A new growth
- Wound that won’t heal properly
- A mole that has recently changed in appearance
- Blemishes or moles that are asymmetrical or have irregular edges, an uneven color, or that are larger in size than a pea