Dermatology Milestones

18birthdaycake

What are dermatology milestones?  This refers to the way our skin changes as we age and that there are certain things a person might want to know about ahead of time, especially if there is a solution.

I've decided to start with the age of 18, but I'll cover all the "biggies" in the near future, so be sure to check back.

My view of youth today tells me that things don't really change that much with the generations, just the technology does.  I would expect that the average 18 year old thinks mostly about their sports, music, activities, friends and dating.  If their parents are lucky, they are thinking about either going to college or getting a full-time job.

They don't tend to spend too much time thinking about how they will age or how long they will live.  Seeing a dermatologist isn't too high up on their priority list and, "who cares about sunscreen, I think I look better tan."  Acne and warts are going to be the top reasons for an 18 year old to see a dermatologist.

Did you know that in the USA, the current life expectancy is 79 years old?  I checked on the statistics and I was surprised to learn that the USA ranks only #37 in the world for longevity.  Japan ranks #1 with a life expectancy on average of 83 years old.  Switzerland is #2, and Italy is #4.  I frequently see patients in their 80's, 90's and a couple over 100, so I think it is fair to say I know a lot about what the skin is going to do with time.

I don't think most 18 year old's think about how long their lives will be.  They are invincible right?  However, now they are officially adults, and certain things are expected of adults, so this milestone represents a big game-changer for our youth.

Here is my advice: hygiene matters.  Wash your face twice a day, brush your teeth twice a day, shower daily, use soap and shampoo, use deodorant and probably anti-perspirant. Dry completely off, especially between the toes.  Wear flip flops in public showers.  If you get athlete's foot then treat it to try to avoid ending up with nail fungus in your toenails.  If you have acne, treat it, don't let yourself get acne scars since they are so expensive to try to treat later.  Even excessive armpit sweating is a treatable condition.  See a dermatologist if you need help.

You might think you won't care what you look like at 60 years old, but you actually will.  Use sunscreen.  Never go in a tanning bed, and remember that a tan isn't beautiful, tan skin = damaged skin and faster appearance of aging.  Think about your habits, if you enjoy outdoor activities, protect your skin from the radiation of the sun by wearing SPF clothing, a hat and sunscreen. Getting a sunburn is painful and has long term consequences, avoid getting burned! EltaMD is an excellent zinc sunscreen that comes in clear, tinted, spray and even a sport version that doesn't sting the eyes.  You are never too young to protect your skin from the sun.

If you have a family history of melanoma, it is time for annual full skin monitoring to be done by your dermatologist. OK, yeah, its a little embarrassing, but you better get used to it, because you will have a lot of doctors in your future.  Suck it up, you're an adult now.

Melanoma is a skin cancer that can kill you if it isn't found early.  At 18 years old, it is possible that you could already have a melanoma somewhere on your body.  You are 10 times more likely to get a melanoma if a first-degree family member has had one.

The American Cancer Society predicts that in 2016 there will be 76,380 new melanomas diagnosed in the USA, and there will be 10,130 deaths from melanoma.  Your lifetime risk is 1:40 now for ending up with a melanoma.  How big was your graduating high school class?   My son's class was about 300 people, which means 8 of those teens will be diagnosed with a melanoma at some point in their lifetime.  Hopefully they won't die because of melanoma.  Statistically, women get checked younger than men do and women's melanomas are detected sooner than men's, which leads to the statistics that men are more likely to die of a melanoma than women are.

I'll save sexually transmitted diseases for another blog.  Happy birthday 18 year old!     :)