12 Ways to Protect Your Skin and Prevent Skin Cancer
By Leslie Pepper
How coffee protects you, and 11 other surprising ways to stop the most
1. All doctors are not created equal: When researchers from Emory
University School of Medicine looked at the records of more than 2,000 melanoma
patients, they found that those whose growths had been diagnosed by a
dermatologist were more likely to have early-stage cancer — and to survive
their disease — than those who'd been diagnosed by another kind of doctor. It
may be that dermatologists are more skilled at finding smaller tumors — and
less likely to brush them off as "nothing."
2. So-called harmless basal cell cancers aren't always so harmless:
True, the growths are usually easy to remove, but of the million new cases each
year, about 5 to 10 percent can be resistant to treatment, recurring over and
over and requiring more extensive surgery. And some basal cells can be very
aggressive, damaging the skin around them and even invading bone and cartilage.
That's why if you have a suspicious growth, you should see a doctor promptly.
"You want it removed before it disfigures your face," says Kishwer
Nehal, M.D., director of Mohs and dermatologic surgery at Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
3. Your daily coffee fix may help you fend off skin cancer: For each
cup of caffeinated java that you drink every day, there's a 5 percent drop in
your odds of developing non-melanoma skin cancer later in life, researchers
recently reported. Down a couple of Starbucks' venti coffees at 20 ounces
apiece, and you may score a 30 percent drop in risk (or more — researchers
didn't ask study participants about more than six cups a day). "It's
possible coffee's antioxidant effect helps to protect against skin cancer,"
says Ernest L. Abel, Ph.D., professor of OB-GYN at Wayne State University
School of Medicine. "But part of it may be that people who drink a lot of
coffee tend to stay indoors more."
4. You can see a dermatologist for wrinkles a lot faster than for mole
checks: In a study from the University of California, San Francisco School
of Medicine, researchers posing as patients called more than 800 dermatologists
across the country to see how long it would take to get different kinds of
appointments. The disturbing results: When "patients" asked for a Botox
treatment, the typical wait was eight days. But when their request concerned a
changing mole, it went up — to 26 days, on average. Doctors may argue that the
current state of health insurance has driven them to sometimes favor cosmetic
patients, who pay in full on the day of treatment (insurance companies can take
months to reimburse with only a fraction of the fee). Still, a changing mole
isn't a trivial symptom. Make sure the receptionist knows why you need an
appointment. If that doesn't work, ask your primary-care doc to intervene or to
recommend another specialist.