May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with over 5 million cases diagnosed every year. Although skin cancer is very prevalent, it is also easily preventable and curable if detected early! If you know our staff at Beacon Skin and Surgeries, you know how passionate we are about skin cancer awareness. Our dermatology providers spend most of their workdays diagnosing and treating skin cancer, along with educating patients on how to prevent it. In honor of May being Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we are going to share our tips and tricks for preventing and detecting skin cancer!
Exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays causes premature skin aging and damage that contributes to development of skin cancer over time. UV rays can cause damage to the skin within 15 minutes of being outdoors and this occurs even when it is cold or cloudy. For this reason, protecting your skin from the sun is the best way to prevent skin cancer!
Follow these tips to protect yourself from the sun:
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30+ daily, at least 30 minutes prior to going outside. For prolonged outdoor activities, reapply every 2 hours and use a water-resistant sunscreen.
- Stay in the shade, especially midday when the UV rays are the strongest.
- Use additional protection to cover the skin, including wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and UV blocking clothing or swim wear.
- Perform monthly self-exams of the skin & see a dermatology provider at least once a year for a formal skin check.
Anyone can develop skin cancer, but there are certain factors that put an individual at a higher risk. Those with lighter complexions, including fair skin, blonde or red hair, and blue or green eyes, are more likely to get sunburned. A history of sunburns early in life is a major factor that contributes to development of skin cancer years later. Certain types of skin cancer become more common as we age, typically after age 50-60 years old. Those with many moles, a personal or family history of skin cancer, and a history of immunosuppression are also at a higher risk to developing skin cancer.
Early diagnosis is absolutely critical in treating skin cancers – 99% of skin cancer cases are curable if treated early! Skin cancers commonly present as changes on the skin, including new skin lesions (bump, crusted/rough spot, painful/bleeding/non-healing growth) or a changing mole. When evaluating moles, we use the “ABCDE’s of melanoma” to determine if a mole appears atypical:
- A: Asymmetrical – Irregular shape, not a mirror image if divided in half.
- B: Border – Uneven, jagged, or poorly defined border.
- C: Color – Multiple colors throughout.
- D: Diameter – Greater than 6mm, or the diameter of a pencil eraser.
- E: Evolving – Changing size, shape, or color.
Any old or new moles that are changing or have characteristics that fit the “ABCDE’s of melanoma” are concerning for pre-cancerous moles or melanoma and should be evaluated promptly.
Monthly self- exams of the skin should be performed to monitor for new or changing skin lesions. A formal skin examination by a dermatology provider is also recommended at least once a year, or more frequently if there is a history of skin cancer. Any new skin lesions that are not healing or moles that are changing should also be evaluated by your dermatology provider.
If you don’t have a dermatology provider, come see us at Beacon Skin and surgeries and get your skin checked today!
The information and statistics in this article are brought to you by: The Skin Cancer Foundation & The American Academy of Dermatology.
Chelsea Beer PA-C