One in five, that’s how many Americans are projected to get some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. One in 50 are expected to contract melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The tragedy is that, despite these statistics, skin cancer is largely a preventable illness brought on by lifestyle choices that develop early in life.
“While there are those who have a genetic predisposition for developing skin cancer, many cases are preventable by adopting simple, daily skin protection practices from an early age,” said Robert J. Casquejo, PA-C, of the Skin and Cancer Center of Scottsdale, whose medical training and 12 years of dermatology experience in Arizona has made him an advocate of skin protection.
According to Casquejo, protection methods are universal and easy to follow, but most people overlook sun protection because it was never taught as part of their childhood grooming routine.
“We all brush our teeth, comb our hair and dress in clean clothes because we were taught to as children,” Casquejo said. “Using sunscreen every day and wearing protective clothing like hats and long sleeves would be just another part of the routine, if we had started doing these things as children.”
The good news is it’s easy to start these potentially life-saving habits.
According to Casquejo, adults should wear sunscreen each and every day.
“When you’re outside, the sun’s rays are always present and both UVA and UVB rays are potentially harmful,” Casquejo said. “Most people don’t think about it, but even 30 minutes of sun exposure as people drive to and from work each day can be enough to become a problem, as can taking walks, running quick errands and even running outside to water a favorite plant.”
That’s why Casquejo, whose medical practice specializes in skin cancer detection and treatment, urges his patients to adopt skin protection practices no matter their age.
“I tell my patients, ‘You can’t think about skin cancer in terms of a catastrophic event that will cause it to happen. You have to think about it in terms of the tiny, little micro moments in the sun, that, put together, create the perfect condition for skin cancers to develop and take hold,’” Casquejo said.
With that in mind, Casquejo suggests that parents make sun protection a part of their child’s morning grooming rituals. Even infants should be protected.
According to Casquejo, for infants, it’s simply a matter of making sure that a child is adequately covered and protected against direct sunlight, especially on hot, summer days.
“That means dressing babies in outfits that cover the skin well,” Casquejo said. “Using thin blankets or swathing towels to block the sun by draping them in car windows and over the fronts of baby strollers, and using bonnets or hats to protect the top of a baby’s head from the sun.”
Limiting the time a baby spends in harsh, direct sunlight is important, as periodic burns and compound sun exposure are both risk factors for skin cancer that may develop later in life.
Casquejo said sunscreen could be used for children over the age of one and should become a part of school-age children’s daily grooming regimen.
“Especially here in Arizona, students who are going to be out on school yards during the day should be using sunscreen daily, and they should be reapplying it every 60 minutes that they are out in the sun,” Casquejo said.