For Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we can use this reminder to take a look at the most prevalent (and preventable) cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Avoiding the sun completely is easier said than done, so knowing the steps you can take to prevent and monitor the development of skin cancer will help you stay safe while enjoying the warm weather this spring and summer.
Some risk factors increase someone's chances of developing skin cancer, although certain features have fewer defenses again sun damage. Skin and hair types with little pigment have less protection from UV radiation, although any shade of skin is susceptible to sunburns. All parts of the body can burn, too, especially areas that are regularly exposed to the sun, including your face, arms, and scalp.
You have a high chance of developing skin cancer if you’re exposed to UV rays often, whether in the sun or in a tanning bed. The chances of developing cancer increase further if you burn frequently, or have a history of skin cancer diagnoses. Regular skin cancer screenings will help you monitor your body to catch any new or returning cases.
When a dermatologist evaluates you, they’ll look for signs of skin cancer like pearly or waxy bumps, scalp red patches, scabbing sores, or unusual moles. You can look out for these yourself, too, and while it doesn’t substitute for a dermatologist’s consultation, keeping an eye out for these signs will help you know if you should go in for a more-than-routine mole evaluation.
Since we all have moles, we can watch for new ones, which can be an early sign of cancer. You can use the ABCDE rule to examine moles on your body, looking for the following features:
Asymmetry - Moles that are any shape but a round dot should be inspected by a dermatologist, especially if you notice ongoing changes.
Border - Normal moles are solid with defined borders. If you notice spots that look like moles, but are jagged, splotchy, or somewhat shapeless, you will want to pay close attention to them, and possibly schedule a skin cancer screening.
Color - Moles are usually tan or brown, but when they are a color like white, black or blue, they might be cause for concern. If any mole changes a color, you should have it checked out by your dermatologist.
Diameter - Normal moles are small, usually smaller than a pencil eraser. If you have one that is larger, or one that has grown larger, you should probably have it looked at by your doctor.
Evolving - If you notice a mole changing shape, texture, size, or color, monitor it closely because moles should stay the same your whole life. These are also signs you should check with your doctor or dermatologist.
You can reduce your risk by avoiding the sun midday, when UV rays are strongest. When you are out, wearing clothes that cover your skin is one way to protect from sun damage, but for areas you don’t or can’t cover, wearing an SPF sunscreen is essential.
In addition to taking care of your skin and attentively monitoring it, it’s important to get evaluated regularly for skin cancer (the month of May is a great time to do it!). Schedule an appointment today for a skin cancer screening with one of our dermatologists.