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Are Stickers the Future of Skin Cancer Prevention?

  • Category: Cancer
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Lauren Zatarain, Hematology Oncology
Are Stickers the Future of Skin Cancer Prevention?

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and ways to prevent it are plentiful. New methods are starting to flood the market, including a surprising one – stickers. Let’s find out how these tiny sticky dots are doing big jobs in skin cancer prevention and detection.

UV-sensing stickers have been trending on social media this summer, and for good reason. They help you know when to reapply sunscreen, which is one of the best methods to protect your skin from harmful rays. They’re easily accessible from online retailers and are relatively inexpensive. All you do is put one of the stickers on an exposed area of skin and apply sunscreen like normal, including over the sticker.

As the sunscreen breaks down, the sticker will change colors, indicating it’s time to reapply. The top layer of the sticker mimics how the skin would absorb sunscreen. They start off clear or white, then turn darker as they’re exposed to UV light.

On one hand, using these stickers may discourage the use of rashguards and other sun-protective shirts or give you a false sense of security. But, while studies haven’t yet shown a direct connection to the stickers reducing sunburn, studies do suggest users are more likely to reapply sunscreen when wearing them – and that’s a step in the right direction.

Remember to use at least SPF 30 sunscreen and reapply at least every 2 hours. If you’re swimming, reapply sooner even if the sunscreen is labeled as water resistant. Also stick with sunscreens that are labeled “broad-spectrum” to ensure both UVA and UVB protection.

If you get five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15-20, you have an 80% increased risk of melanoma, the most invasive type of skin cancer. An emerging technology that can help detect melanoma is – you guessed it – another sticker! The DermTech Smart Sticker has been around for a couple of years but is just starting to pop up in more areas. It works by detecting the presence of genomic markers associated with melanoma.

After a skin check, your dermatologist will clean the spots you’re concerned about, usually a mole, then apply the stickers to the spots and rub them to collect the cells. The process is repeated four times on each spot, and the stickers are sent off for testing.

If the results come back positive, you’d likely proceed with more testing through a traditional biopsy, in which a sample of tissue is removed with a scalpel. If you have a suspicious spot on the palms of the hands, soles of feet, the mucous membrane or any place on the body where hair can’t be removed, the sticker isn’t an option, and you’d need a biopsy.

If you notice any unusual changes or growths on the skin, make an appointment with your dermatologist. Click here to make an appointment with a Baton Rouge General dermatologist.

Lauren Zatarain, MD
Hematology Oncology
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center