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Prevention and early detection are important tools to fight skin cancer

Soak Up the Sun—Safely

Prevention and early detection are important tools to fight skin cancer

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which means it’s the perfect time to learn more about the dangers of skin cancer and the steps you can take to protect yourself.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world. About one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, and it’s thought that about 2,000 people die from it each year. That’s why early detection and prevention are so important.

What is skin cancer?

Simply put, skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. There are several types of skin cancer, but basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are the most common. All three are generally found on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun. Melanoma, which can spread quickly, is considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Detection

When detected early, skin cancer is highly treatable—which is why self-exams are so important. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone perform a skin self-exam each month. Doing a skin self-exam is easy and can be performed at home. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Face a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. Note moles, discolorations, freckles and other discolorations on the front side of your body. Check under your arms, both sides of your arms, your palms and the tops of your hands and in between your fingers.
  2. Turn your back to the mirror and hold a hand mirror. Examine your upper and lower body. Remember to look carefully at your buttocks, legs, toes and even the soles of your feet.
  3. Use a hand mirror to check your neck and scalp carefully.
  4. You can also use the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s body map to note moles, blemishes or other marks on your body.

What are you looking for?

ABCDE is a helpful acronym that can help you know what to look for—and bring to your dermatologist’s attention—when you’re doing a skin self-exam. The acronym stands for:

A – Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half in size, shape, or color.

B – Border: The edges of the mole are irregular, blurred, or jagged.

C – Color: The color of the mole is not uniform and may include shades of brown, black, or even red, white, or blue.

D – Diameter: The mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.

E – Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

If you notice any of these changes in a mole or other spot on your skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible.

How can you protect yourself from skin cancer?

While early detection is important, taking proactive steps now to protect your skin can help prevent skin cancer from developing. Consider these tips:

Wear sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, even on cloudy days.

Seek shade: Avoid spending too much time in direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Wear protective clothing: Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, and pants to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. You may also want to consider clothing made of UV protective materials

Avoid tanning beds and sunburns: Tanning beds emit UV radiation, which can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. When working outdoors and spending a day at the beach or by the pool, be sure to wear sunscreen and sit in shaded areas. Reapply sunscreen regularly, every two hours when swimming or sweating.

Be cautious with medications: Some medications can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to read the labels and take precautions if necessary.

This Skin Cancer Awareness Month, take the time to educate yourself and your loved ones about the risks of skin cancer and the importance of early detection and prevention. Skin cancer is a serious disease that can have devastating consequences if left untreated. However, by performing regular self-exams, knowing the ABCDE rule, and taking preventative measures like wearing sunscreen and seeking shade, you can reduce your risk of developing the disease.

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