May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. You may be planning to spend some time in the sun this Memorial Day weekend to kick off the summer season. Are you equipped to keep your skin safe?
Skin cancer incidence has been on the rise in the US for over 3 decades, with over 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. Malignant melanoma accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths, and the American Cancer Society estimates that one affected American dies every hour.
Nothing increases skin cancer survival rates more than early detection, and nothing lowers skin cancer rates more than robust prevention strategies. Know both, and share with your family and friends to be an active participant in combating this disease.
The most common cancer diagnosis also happens to be the most preventable. How can you keep your skin safe? It’s simpler than you might think.
Given that exposure to UV rays is a major driver of skin cancer risk, you do have the power to protect yourself!
As we kick off the summer season, commit to using sunscreen and lip balm with UVB and UVA protection. Look for at least SPF 30. Reapply every two hours, and stay out of direct sunlight when possible. UV-protective sunglasses and a hat are always a wise choice.
Your sun protection game plan shouldn’t just go into effect on summer beach days. Think about UV protection every day. Keep your sunscreen handy even when it’s cloudy – the UV rays are still out there! Avoid tanning beds.
Think you aren’t at risk? One of the main reasons early detection fails is that we tend to exempt ourselves from regular skin checks. But studies say that when melanomas are found and treated early, mortality is greatly reduced. Be an active player in skin cancer detection: all it takes is a few minutes!
Monthly skin checks are the foundation of early detection. Examine your skin under good lighting and use a hand mirror for harder-to-reach areas. Become familiar with the pattern of marks and lesions on all areas of your skin (regardless of sun exposure) so that you’ll notice new ones or changes in the characteristics of existing ones. Here are the skin cancer red flags to look out for:
ASYMMETRY – One half of the lesion is differentiated from the other.
BORDER- The lesion border is irregular or poorly defined.
COLOR – The lesion is non-uniform in color.
DIAMETER – Melanomas are often larger than 5mm, but can be smaller.
EVOLVING – The lesion changes in size, shape, or color over time.
Melanomas can occur anywhere on your body. The skin on your back is the most common site for malignant melanoma in men, and the legs is the most common site in women. Consider teaming up with a friend for skin checks to make sure nothing slips under your radar. On that note – remember, your dermatologist always has your back, too!
Notice a suspicious skin lesion? The expertise of a board certified dermatologist is closer than you’d think. In fact, on SkyMD, your dermatologist can diagnose and treat a wide range of skin, hair, and nail conditions online. Start an online, hassle-free visit today. Enjoy your summer kickoff with peace of mind!