Skin Cancer Prevention and Risk Reduction
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'm at high risk for skin cancer and I take this topic very seriously! Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
I myself had 2 skin growths in my teens and 20s that looked like agressive melanomas under the microscope (called Spitz Nevi). The scare of cancer loomed big for me and yet I still tanned so I know how hard it is to give up sunbathing and the urge to feel the sun's warm rays on 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. Having done well over 200,000 full skin exams on sun loving Californians during my career, I've been able to observe what works and what doesn't for lowering a person's risk of developing skin cancer. I've also been able to use my own sun damaged skin as a test case to try out my ideas. In this article, I share with you 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. She was a classic Californian with years of sun exposure and damage. Her fair skin also 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. - Dr. Bailey
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.
#1: Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen and Sun Protection 365.
The sun needs to be kept off of your skin entirely to prevent skin cancer. Yep, 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. Be especially diligent during the sunny season and when you plan to be outdoors for a significant period of time. I created an infographic to summarize how to sun protect your skin:
First, cover as much skin as possible with sun protective clothing or clothing that can block UV rays. Then ASK yourself if you think 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 reduce UV ray exposure by wearing a UPF 50 sun hat or using a UPF 50 sun umbrella. Be that smart person who is in the shade avoiding maximal UV 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 continuously seen all others fail my patients. It's not worth the risk! - 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.
#2: The best antioxidant skin care product.
The best proven antioxidants for reducing skin cancer risk are green tea polyphenols, vitamins C and E. Not all products with these ingredients will work, however. You need high concentrations of pharmaceutically pure and stable antioxidants to reap the benefits. Also, based on the scientific evidence and my clinical experience, green tea EGCG polyphenols are clearly the best antioxidants for reducing photocarcinogenesis in my opinion.
I’ve made it my mission to have exactly the right formulations for my skin cancer patients. They are my Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy and the pharmaceutical grade vitamins and antioxidants in my Daily Moisturizing Face Cream and sunscreens. I tell you below how you can incorporate these into your complete skin care routine and benefit from these powerful products.
How do antioxidants in skin care work to reduce UV DNA damage from the sun?
Antioxidants applied to your skin can act as an extra type of protection against damaging free radicals formed from sun exposure. Layering these products under your sunscreen gives you a reservoir of helpful antioxidants.
#3: A skin care routine that helps to control skin inflammation from common rashes.
If you suffer from common skin rashes such as facial seborrhea or rosacea, use a skin care routine that works to control the redness. This will help your skin focus it's immune resources on fighting skin cancer.
Yes, 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. This was how I discovered years ago that the Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy Cream helped reduce precancer development on the sun damaged skin of my rosacea and seborrhea patients.
I designed my Facial Flaking and Redness Relief Kit to do just that. The kit includes the Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy to load your skin with skin cancer fighting green tea along with Calming Zinc to fight rosacea and seborrhea plus the right moisturizing cream to strengthen fragile skin barrier problems associated with facial redness.
#4: A vitamin A retinoid product.
Dermatologist have been using retinoids for my entire career to lower the risk of skin cancer in predisposed patients. You can use a prescription product such at tretinoin or use a non-prescription medical-grade retinol product such as my professional strength Retinol Night Cream. Retinol is easier to use than tretinoin. These products are to be used at bedtime, because the vitamin A retinoid breaks down on contact with light.
The bottom line: help your skin fend off skin cancers by building a skin care routine to help your previously sun damaged skin recover.
This is what I've helped my patients do for over 35 years. It's also what I do for my own previously sun exposed California complexion.
Dr. Bailey's Complete Skin Care Routine™ to Fight Skin Cancer.
Build a holistic complete skin care routine that includes the above products. I teach that Complete Skin Care™ means using compatible products for the 4 key skin care steps:
In your routine, your products are also applied in this order.
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
CLEANSE your facial skin with the Calming Zinc bar soap if you have facial redness. If you don’t suffer from facial redness, then choose a facial cleanser matched to your skin type such as my Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser.
CORRECT skin antioxidant depletion by applying Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy.
HYDRATE to keep skin barrier integrity strong by applying a skin cream that helps prevent skin water loss during the day and reloads skin barrier components such as lipids that are lost during normal wear and tear. My Daily Moisturizing Face Cream contains ceramides and squalane to replenish these key elements of the skin barrier. It is also fortified with pharmaceutically pure vitamins C and E. A botanical alternative is my All Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion.
PROTECT skin from UV ray exposure by wearing a pure mineral sunscreen formulated with zinc oxide. My Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF Sunscreens are state-of-the-art sunscreens and offer the best UV protection available today. They are made without fragrance, parabens or chemical sunscreen ingredients.
Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted SPF 30+ 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 iron oxide which is known to help block visible light capable of contributing to skin pigment problems such as melasma. This sunscreen also makes an excellent makeup primer. The tinting blends into all skin tones to soften complexion flaws. It also becomes invisible and never looks like 'makeup'.
Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF 50 Refresh Powder Sunscreen is the easy answer to the problem of sunscreen reapplication over makeup. Carry it with you and top up your sunscreen during days of extended sun exposure. It contains over 3.2% iron oxide to fight stubborn pigment problems such as melasma and age spots.
Sheer Strength Pure Physical Water Resistant 50+ Spray Sunscreen is the ideal daily wear sunscreen for all skin types. It is highly water resistant making it ideal for 'wet and sweaty' activities and the entire family. I wear when hiking or gardening. I also wear it daily on all non-facial exposed skin.
BEDTIME SKIN CARE ROUTINE:
CLEANSE facial skin as noted above.
CORRECT apply Retinol Night Cream which provides a combination of 1% retinol and the same green tea antioxidants as Green Tea 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 with the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream if using Retinol Night Cream. Tretinoin is usually in a cream base and no further moisturizer is needed on top of tretinoin cream.
Skin care kits for sun damaged skin at risk for skin cancer.
I've created kits to take out the guesswork of crafting a good skin care routine to address skin problems or goals. For sun damaged and cancer prone facial skin, I recommend my Complete Skin Care Kit. It contains a great facial cleanser, the Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy, vitamin fortified Daily Moisturizing Face Cream and Matte Tinted Sheer Strength Sunscreen.
Incorporate a retinoid by adding my Retinol Night Cream or ask your dermatologist if prescription tretinoin is right for you.
Skin care for sun damaged décolleté (upper chest area) and hand skin.
These areas can be usually be treated with the same skin care routine as the face. I use my Complete Skin Care Kit on these areas along with retinol.
Skin care for sun damaged skin on the arms, back, hands and legs.
These areas of skin are thicker and more resistant to change with your skin care routine. Antioxidants and retinoids don't have a big impact here in my observation. I recommend 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