May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, an annual time of year aimed at raising awareness about skin cancer and educating individuals to take steps to protect their skin. Since skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, it is of the utmost importance that individuals are aware of ways to detect and prevent skin cancers. 

Skin cancer is caused by damage to the skin cells, usually from exposure to the harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are definitely the most common types and are typically not life-threatening, but melanoma can be deadly if not diagnosed and treated early.

Melanoma Monday occurs on the initial Monday of every May and is an extremely imperative day to raise awareness for the deadliest skin cancer. Considering it is the deadliest form, it is essential for individuals to be aware that when melanoma is caught earlier, it does have a high chance of being treated. Melanoma can develop in any location on the skin and even the fingernails and toenails. When assessing skin lesions, individuals should look for the ABCDEs of Melanoma. The A stands for Asymmetry (when one spot is unlike the other half), B is for Border (when a lesion has a irregular or poorly defined border), C is for Color (when lesions are darker or vary in colors), D is for Diameter (when a lesion is typically larger than 6mm), and E is for Evolving (the lesion appears differently and is evolving in size, color, or shape). 

Here are some tips for protecting your skin and reducing your risk of skin cancer:

USE SUNSCREEN: Sunscreen is one of the most effective ways to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. Using sunscreen accurately is also critical to effectively protecting your skin. Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes prior to sun exposure, every 2 hours, and reapplied after swimming or sweating. 

SEEK SHADE OR COVER UP: When spending time outdoors, seek shade during the hottest part of the day, usually during the middle of the day when the UV rays are the highest. Also, wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat, when spending a lot of time in the sun.

AVOID TANNING BEDS: Tanning beds can increase skin cancer risk by emitting UV radiation to the skin. Using tanning beds prior to the age of 20 has shown to increase the risk of developing a melanoma by 47%. 

GET SKIN EXAMS: Schedule regular appointments with a dermatology provider for yearly total body skin checks, especially if there is a personal or family history of skin cancer. 

Skin cancer is preventable, but it requires taking the necessary steps to protect your skin. By following these tips and spreading awareness during Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we can help lower the incidence of skin cancer and keep our skin healthy for years to come.

Make an appointment today to see one of our Dermatology physicians or PAs to schedule your yearly skin cancer screening exam! Also, in honor of skin cancer awareness month, Beacon Skin and surgeries is joining the SPOT Skin Cancer efforts through FREE SKIN CANCER SCREENINGS on Thursday May 4, 2023 at our Rochester location, please call our office to schedule!

The information above is from the American Academy of Dermatology

Megan Bacall, PA-C