Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S.? Pregnancy alters your immune system, which may put you at a higher risk of developing skin cancer if you don’t take precautions.
Skin cancer during pregnancy is probably the last thing on your mind as a new mom or a mom-to-be. With the weather warming up in New Jersey, we don’t want you to miss out on the summer fun. Just take a few simple steps to prevent skin cancer for healthy skin now and for years to come.
Here are 4 skin cancer prevention tips to put into practice, from our family to yours:
1. Wear sunscreen.
Be pregnancy smart. Choose your sunscreen wisely during pregnancy. Pick a formula that guards against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 or higher. In your extra-sensitive state, steer clear of chemical sunscreens and go for physical blockers (the label will list zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as main ingredients). They sit on top of skin, rather than being absorbed into it. An example would be Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock Lotion SPF 60+ ($11; drugstore.com). This is generally the first step that all families take together in preventing skin cancer. Additionally, we recommend that you reapply your sunscreen at least once every 2 hours.
If your infant is under 6 months old, you can’t use sunscreen on them. For those 6-12 months old, we advise you to use SPF 15+.
2. Avoid the sun during peak hours.
It may be difficult to do, but we recommend doing activities when the sun’s UV rays aren’t as strong. The sun is at its strongest from 10am to 4pm. And that’s when you are most likely to get burned.
It’s best to keep infants out of direct sunlight to avoid getting burned. Finding a shaded place for activities is one way to avoid the rays.
3. Wear protective clothing.
If your family does activities during the sun’s peak hours, and even if they don’t, you should supplement sunscreen with tightly woven dark clothing since it provides the most protection from UV rays. It is best if the clothing covers your family’s arms and legs. As far as hats go, a wide-brimmed hat protects better than a baseball cap or visor for both you and your infant. Wearing sunglasses is also a way to keep your eyes protected from UV rays.
4. Tanning in a bed, on the beach, or from a bottle.
During pregnancy, your skin becomes extremely sensitive which puts you at a higher risk for hives, heat rash or worsened chloasma. Even though there’s no scientific proof, it is recommended that moms-to-be refrain from any form of tanning in the first trimester. Tanning while pregnant can cause harm not only to your skin but also to your growing baby’s development. Avoiding UV rays all together will ensure a lessened chance of skin cancer so we recommend trying a sunless tan if you want to be bronze. There are many different types of creams and lotions that can be applied to the skin for instant color. You should always test the sunless tan on a spot of your skin before applying all over to make sure you don’t have any negative reactions.
Now that you have these helpful tips, we suggest that you develop a family-wide plan to implement them. However, there is no guarantee that these will 100% prevent skin cancer. Because of that, we also wanted to let you know what to watch out for.
- A large brownish spot with darker speckles
- A mole that changes in color, size or feel
- A mole that bleeds
- A small lesion with an irregular border
- A small lesion with portions appearing red, white, blue or blue-black
- Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes
- Dark lesions on the mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus
Other Skin Cancer Symptoms to Note
- A firm, red nodule
- A firm, shiny nodule on or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles
- A hard, painless nodule on the eyelid
- A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
- A pearly or waxy bump
- A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
- Red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes
- A spread of color beyond the border of a mole or birthmark
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- A change in skin sensation (i.e. an itch, pain, tenderness)
As in a non-pregnant state, these skin changes during pregnancy raise suspicion of skin cancer. But, they may not necessarily indicate that a person has skin cancer. We encourage you to schedule an appointment with your family doctor or pediatrician to see if these changes necessitate evaluation including a visit with a dermatologist. Of course, if you live in Monmouth County at the Jersey Shore we will gladly assist you.
Call us at Little Silver Pediatrics & Family Medicine to schedule an appointment with our doctors. With Board-certified Pediatrics and Family Medicine Specialists in one convenient office location, we offer same-day appointments and often accommodate parents and children during the same visit.