Skin Cancer Prevention and Risk Reduction
By Cynthia Bailey MD. This page was updated on Tue, Mar 31, 2020
Skin cancer prevention and risk reduction has been the main focus of my 30+ year dermatology career. I live and work in sunny California. My misspent youth involved tanning whenever I could and I have a strong family history of melanoma. I myself had 2 skin growths in my teens and 20s that looked like melanoma under the microscope (called Spitz Nevi). The scare of cancer loomed big for me and yet I still tanned.
I know firsthand the urge to live in the sun and feel the rays warm your skin. As a dermatologist, I also know the consequences. I've made it my life's work to help people reverse and lower their risk for skin cancer. I've seen it work in over 200,000 full skin exams over my career. I've seen it work on my own complexion too. Find here what I've learned.
GET MY DERMATOLOGIST-RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR LOWERING YOUR RISK OF GETTING SKIN CANCER
What you apply on your skin is important, especially when you are at a higher risk for skin cancer.
I guide my skin cancer patients to choose the best sunscreens and products that are loaded with the right antioxidants proven to fight skin cancer.
- My patients use broad spectrum mineral zinc oxide based sunscreens from sun up to sun down.
- We also work hard to control inflammation on their skin by treating any chronic rashes, dryness and inflammation that happens from sun damage itself.
- We load their skin with proven antioxidants through their skin care routine and diet.
These 3 changes in your skin care routine will reap big benefits in resisting skin cancers.
Can You Really Lower Your Risk of Skin Cancer Once the Sun Damage Is Done?
We see it every day! In my California dermatology practice, we have specialized in treating skin cancer patients for over 30 years. We see patients daily who have lowered their risk of getting skin cancer, because they are finally taking good care of their skin. They use products with antioxidants, retinoids and mineral zinc oxide sun screens in their daily skin care routine. This helps reduce the amount of skin cancers and precancers they develop and improves their skin’s look and feel.
My first ah-ha moment occurred over 20 years ago, during the routine skin exam of a woman I had known for years. Her fair skin suffered from rosacea and facial seborrhea, and she would develop skin cancers and precancers at an astonishing rate. Once she started using a product with an ultra-high concentration of pharmaceutically pure and active green tea polyphenol antioxidants in her skin care routine, along with a zinc oxide sunscreen, there was a huge change in how many precancers her facial skin developed. My chart notes were the proof: she went from having over 15 precancers treated at each visit to just 3! Her success continued visit after visit. We were both astonished.
We have even better information and sun screen products today. There have been scientific studies showing the benefits of green tea antioxidants and inflammation control in reducing the risk of skin cancers. If your skin has suffered sun damage that puts you at high risk for skin cancer, then it is important you optimize your skin care routine with the best products.
What Skin Care Products Do Dermatologists Recommend for People at Risk for Skin Cancer?
These recommendations come from my practice. It is also how I take care of my own fair, sun-damaged skin.
The sun needs to be entirely kept off your skin to help prevent skin cancer
Upwards of 90% of skin cancers are due to sun. That is both past sun exposure and current sun exposure. Did you know that sun suppresses your skin's immune system that is responsible for removing cancerous cells when they first form? It's true. If you have a lot of past sun exposure history that's putting your skin at risk for cancer, you need to stop any and all UV exposure going forward.
Use only the best sunscreen and sun protection products, especially during the sunny season or if you will be outdoors for significant periods of time.
Cover as much skin as possible with sun protective clothing or clothing that can block UV rays. Then ASK if the rest of your skin is sufficiently UV protected:
APPLY mineral zinc oxide sunscreen to all exposed skin first thing in the morning and reapply during intense sun exposure.
SHADE your skin to deflect direct hits from UV rays by wearing a UPF 50 sun hat or using a UPF 50 sun umbrella. Be that smart person who is in the shade avoiding direct UV ray exposure.
KNOW the intensity of your sun exposure so that you make smart choices. This requires a little homework and you can see in this infographic some of the most important factors that impact sun intensity.
For more information download my free eBook outlining my sun protection guidelines which you will find by clicking here. On this page you will also find my free eBook on the best diet for health skin.
What is the best sunscreen to lower your risk of skin cancer?
My 30+ year observation of sunscreen science has led me to trust only mineral zinc oxide based products. In my dermatology practice I have seen all others fail my patients continuously. - Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
Pick the right zinc oxide sunscreen product based on your activity, skin type and budget. Click here to see the products I trust for myself and my patients.
Add antioxidant skin care products to your daily skin care to help reduce your risk of skin cancer.
The best proven antioxidants for reducing skin cancer risk are green tea polyphenols and vitamin C. Not all products with these ingredients will work, however. You need high concentrations of pharmaceutically pure and stable antioxidants to reap the benefits. I’ve made it my mission to have exactly the right formulations for my skin cancer patients. They are found in my Vitamin C Serum and my Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy. I tell you below how you can incorporate these into your complete skin care routine and benefit from these powerful products.
Control skin inflammation from common rashes to help focus your skin’s resources on fighting skin cancer.
There is scientific evidence that inflamed skin is depleted of antioxidants, and thus more prone to skin cancer. If you have facial inflammation from rosacea and/or seborrhea (two of the most common facial rashes of adulthood), then you want to get it under control.I designed my Facial Redness Relief Kit to do just that. The kit includes my
Add vitamin A retinoid products to help lower your risk of skin cancer.
You can use a prescription product such at tretinoin or use a non-prescription retinol product such as my professional strength Retinol Night Cream. These products are to be used at bedtime, because the vitamin A retinoid breaks down on contact with light.
How Do You Create a Dr. Bailey Complete Skin Care Routine™ to Fight Skin Cancer?
Build a complete skin care routine that includes the above products. I teach that Complete Skin Care means using well-suited products for the 4 key skin care steps:
Products are usually applied in this order too.
Most skin cancers happen on the face and neck, so getting your facial skin care routine optimized is important. Here is my most popular facial skin care routine for people at a higher risk for skin cancer:
AM SKIN CARE ROUTINE
HYDRATE to keep skin barrier integrity strong by applying a skin cream that reloads the skin lipids lost during the day. Apply a moisturizer that matches your skin type. For dry skin, options include my All Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion or Daily Moisturizing Face Cream. For oily to normal complexions, the preference is my Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin.
PROTECT skin from UV ray exposure by wearing a zinc oxide sunscreen that matches your skin type, activities and lifestyle. My most popular products are: Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF 50+ Sunscreens made with invisible pure zinc oxide. These state-of-the-art sunscreens offer the best UV protection available today.
Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted SPF 50+ Sunscreen is the facial product I wear daily. It has entirely stopped the darkening of my freckles even during the summer when I am outdoors constantly. It contains over 3.2% iron oxide which is known to block visible light capable of contributing to skin pigment problems such as melasma. This sunscreen makes an excellent makeup primer too.
Sheer Strength Pure Physical APF 50+ Spray Sunscreen is the ideal daily wear sunscreen for all skin types. I wear this on my neck, chest, ears and hands daily. It never discolors my fine clothing. It is moderately water resistant and it is the facial product I wear when hiking or gardening. It is a men's favorite because it rubs in easily to hair skin too.
BEDTIME SKIN CARE ROUTINE:
CLEANSE facial skin as noted above.
CORRECT skin antioxidant depletion and augment retinoid levels by applying Retinol Night Cream. For my patients who use prescription tretinoin, I recommend applying Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy, then waiting 15 minutes before applying the tretinoin
HYDRATE skin as above.
I've grouped many of these products together as kits because the combinations are that important! Click here to see my skin care kits. Top choices for people at risk for skin care include my:
The skin of the décolleté (upper chest area) can be treated like the face, but arms, back, hands and legs are more resistant. Using sun protective clothing to reduce the areas of exposed skin, applying zinc oxide sunscreen such as the Sheer Strength Spray is important, and keeping skin well hydrated and healthy is the best skin care for these tougher areas.
The role of antioxidants in photoprotection: A critical review, Lucy Chen, BA, Judy Y. Hu, MD, and Steven Q. Wang, MD, J Am Acad Dermatol 2012;67:1013-24.
Skin photoprotection by natural polyphenols: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and DNA repair mechanisms, Joi A. Nichols, Santosh K. Katiyar, Arch Dermatol Res. 2010 March ; 302(2): 71
Green Tea Polyphenol Treatment to Human Skin Prevents Formation of Ultraviolet Light B-induced Pyrimidine Dimers in DNA, Santosh K. Katiyar et. al., Clin Cancer Res 2000;6:3864-3869
Green tea prevents non-melanoma skin cancer by enhancing DNA repair, Santosh K. Katiyar, Arch Biochem Biophys. 2011 Apr 15; 508(2): 152–158.
Green Tea Polyphenols Prevent UV-Induced Immunosuppression by Rapid Repair of DNA Damage and Enhancement of Nucleotide Excision Repair Genes, Santosh K. Katiyar, Mudit Vaid, Harry van Steeg, and Syed M. Meeran, Cancer Prev Res; 3(2); 179–89
Caffeine and caffeine sodium benzoate have a sunscreen effect, enhance UVB-induced apoptosis, and inhibit UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis in SKH-1 mice. Lu YP, Lou YR, Xie JG, Peng QY, Zhou S, Lin Y, Shih WJ, Conney AH. Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jan;28(1):199-206.
Topical applications of caffeine or epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) inhibit carcinogenesis and selectively increase apoptosis in UVB-induced skin tumors in mice, Yao-Ping Lu, You-Rong Lou, Jian-Guo Xie, Qing-Yun Peng, Jie Liao, Chung S. Yang, Mou-Tuan Huang,and Allan H. Conney, PNAS September 17, 2002; vol. 99 (19); 12455–12460
Microfine Zinc Oxide is a Superior Sunscreen Ingredient to Microfine Titanium Dioxide, Sheldon R. Pinnell, MD, et. al., Dermatol Surg 2000;26:309-314