May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. With 5.4 million cases in more than 3.3 million people diagnosed annually, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. It is vital to understand that anyone can get skin cancer regardless of skin color or age. Fortunately, when detected early, skin cancer including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer is highly treatable. According to research women are nine times more likely to notice melanoma on others than men, which means they could help save their partners’ lives by helping them spot skin cancer. This is especially important for men over 50 as they have an increased risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population.
When you expose your skin to sunlight, it reacts by producing more melanin. According to the Mayo Clinic, extra melanin can cause uneven pigmentation, commonly referred to as sunspots. Prolonged exposure to sunlight may also cause the delicate blood vessels in your face to stretch and expand, giving you a ruddy complexion.
- Exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet light.
- Increased sun exposure in childhood.
- Even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma.
- Experiencing five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15 and 20 increases skin cancer risk by 68 percent.
- Exposure to tanning beds, especially in women 45 and younger.
- Skin that burns easily; blonde or red hair; a history of excessive sun exposure, including sunburns; tanning bed use; immune system-suppressing diseases or treatments; and a history of skin cancer.
- People with more than 50 moles, atypical moles, or large moles, as are those with light skin and freckles, and those with a personal or family history of melanoma.
Both doctors and patients play important roles in finding skin cancer. If you have any of the following symptoms, tell your doctor.
- Any change on the skin, the size or color of a mole, darkly pigmented growth or spot.
- Scaling, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the appearance of a bump
- The spread of pigmentation beyond its border- dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark.
- A change in sensation, itchiness, tenderness, or pain.
Before you spend time outdoors plan your sun protection accordingly, using these tips:
- Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
- Stay hydrated. When the temperature rises, your body needs additional water to replenish what it has lost in sweat.
- Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
- Use sunscreen with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher.
- Remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Sometimes it just the simple things that can lead to early detection and a cure. Just doing a regular skin check involves carefully examining all of the skin on your body. Starting at your scalp down to the soles of your feet and between your toes. During a skin check, don’t leave any area of skin unexamined. Parts such as your back and neck are difficult to see, so you may want to ask a partner or spouse to help.
Dr. Hricko is concerned for your overall health and wellbeing and to that end we offer in our office or online store a variety of skin care options to protect your skin from damage. Please call or come by and see what we can do to keep you safe from the sun’s harmful rays.