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How You Can Protect Against Skin Cancer This Summer

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society shares the simple things everyone can do to enjoy the warmer weather while still keeping their skin safe. 

Protect Against Skin Cancer This Summer

Most people don’t like taking tests, but when it comes to your health, regular testing can help prevent disease and give you a longer, healthier life. Of course, certain tests for certain diseases are needed at different stages of a person’s life. We’ve rounded up some of the most important tests for the most common diseases that affect people at every stage of their life.

 

In Your 40s

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Colonoscopy

Why You Should Be Tested:

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the US. The good news is that the death rate from colon cancer has been steadily declining for decades. A big reason for that is because colon cancer screenings often detect polyps that eventually grow to become cancerous.

When and How Often:

The American Cancer Society recommends that adults with an average risk of colorectal cancer begin screenings at age 45. You should continue getting tested through to age 75. Being at normal risk means you have no family history of colorectal cancer, no history of inflammatory bowel diseases, and no history of radiation treatments to the abdomen or pelvic region. If any of these apply, talk to your doctor about when and how often you should be screened.

 

Blood Pressure 

Why You Should Be Tested:

Blood pressure is one of the biggest indicators of underlying heart problems, including heart disease. Because symptoms rarely present with increased or decreased blood pressure, the only way to keep on top of any issues is to be tested.

When and How Often:

The American Heart Association recommends getting your blood pressure tested every four to six years beginning at age 20 but by the time you’re 40-years-old, you should be getting tested annually. Of course, if you have any underlying conditions that may raise your risks for heart issues, being tested sooner and more often might be needed.

 

Lipid Profile

Why You Should Be Tested:

One of the best ways to prevent heart disease is to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Elevated cholesterol levels significantly raise your odds of a heart attack and/or stroke but they’re also linked to gallbladder issues. A lipid profile measures the total cholesterol in your blood, including “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

When and How Often:

The Mayo Clinic recommends getting a full lipid profile by age 18. As long as you have no underlying risk factors for heart disease and the results come back normal, you should be screened every five years. Once you reach age 45, up those screening to once a year.

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Diabetes

Why You Should Be Tested:

Diabetes causes problems with people’s blood sugar, more specifically, it causes blood glucose levels to rise to alarming rates. Type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, happens when your body doesn’t use insulin properly. It’s usually caused by poor diet and genetic predisposition, and it can affect everything from kidney and liver health to your vision.

When and How Often:

Adults in their 40s without high-risk factors should begin screening for diabetes every three years but if you’re overweight, have a family history of the disease, have had gestational diabetes or polycystic syndrome and if you’re African American, Latino, Native American, or Asian American you may need to be tested more often.

 

In Your 50s

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Mammogram

Why You Should Be Tested:

A mammogram is a useful tool for detecting cancer confined to the breast tissues. According to the American Cancer Society, 97% of women diagnosed at this stage survive without recurrence for at least five years.

When and How Often:

The most recent research suggests that women should be getting an annual mammogram at age 50 but if you have certain risk factors like a family history of the disease, an inherited genetic mutation such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, dense tissue, or if your menstrual cycle began before age 12, you might need to be tested sooner and more often. And of course, it’s recommended you do a self-exam every month.

 

Menopause

Why You Should Be Tested:

Technically, you can’t be “tested” for menopause but it’s a good idea to keep track of your symptoms as they progress. Hot flashes, night sweats, and weight gain are all common developments but if they become bothersome or begin interfering with your day-to-day, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Certain medicines and hormonal therapies may be available to help.

When and How Often:

Every woman is different, but menopause usually presents in your early to mid-50s.

 

Lung Cancer

Why You Should Be Tested:

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women and the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Unfortunately, most cases of lung cancer are at an advanced stage by the time they’re detected, making them very difficult to cure.

When and How Often:

The ACS recommends a screening test called an LDCT (low-dose CAT scan) to help detect lung cancer in patients over 55 years-old who also have a history of smoking which includes either quitting in the past 15 years or have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history.

 

In Your 60s

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Bone Density

Why You Should Be Tested:

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, nearly 10 million older Americans suffer from Osteoporosis, a weakening of a person’s bone structure which causes brittleness and breakage. Among this group, 80% affected are women.

When and How Often:

Women can lose up to 30 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause which is why it’s recommended that they have a bone density test at age 65 to determine a baseline and any risk factor. Men should also be tested in their mid-60s and both men and women should continue to be screened every few years or as directed by your physician.

 

Pneumonia

Why You Should Be Tested:

People over age 65 are at increased risk for contracting pneumonia. What’s worse: Pneumonia can become more severe and can sometimes require hospitalization or be fatal as you age.

When and How Often:

Tests like chest X-Rays and CT scans are normally done once a doctor suspects a patient of having pneumonia, but doctors recommend people age 65 and older get two important vaccines — the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV 13) and the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23) — that protect you from the disease as you age.

 

Eye Exams

Why You Should Be Tested:

Older patients are at an increased risk for debilitating vision disorders, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.

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When and How Often:

You’ve probably already visited an eye doctor at least once in your life, most commonly, during your school-age years but by the time you’re 40-years-old, you should have a baseline comprehensive eye evaluation. Individuals without risk factors aged 40 to 54 should be examined by an ophthalmologist every two to four years. Individuals without risk factors aged 55 to 64 should be examined by an ophthalmologist every one to three years.

 

At Any Age

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Pap Smears

Why You Should Be Tested:

Pap smears are the best indicator of a woman’s sexual health. They also help doctors track cell changes in the cervix, often detecting cervical cancer earlier, improving a woman’s survival rate.

When and How Often:

Beginning at age 21 and until age 65, women with no risk factors should have a Pap smear every three years. If you have a family history of cervical cancer, hormonal disorders, or other reproductive issues such as ovarian cysts or uterine polyps, check with your doctor to see if you should be tested more often.

 

Skin Cancer

Why You Should Be Tested:

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer to affect both men and women. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer on the rise, especially in young women and if not caught early, it can easily and quickly spread.

When and How Often:

You can and should check your skin once a month at home. You know your body better than anyone so if a new mole pops up, if one begins to grow, if discoloration or any other changes take place, make an appointment with your doctor. If you’re at an increased risk for skin cancer or have a family history of it, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests talk to your doctor and determining how often you should have an in-office exam.

 

Dental Checkups

Why You Should Be Tested:

Maintaining good dental health throughout your life is crucial for your overall health. The state of your gums and teeth can tell a doctor plenty about any current conditions or risks for future problems. While there’s no direct link between heart health and dental health, it’s suggested the two are closely related.

When and How Often:

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Bi-annual dental checkups are recommended throughout a person’s life. This usually includes diagnostic testing, like X-Rays, and hygiene testing like teeth cleaning and gum maintenance.

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