It’s time to take a good look at yourself in the mirror… and check for any changing moles or suspicious spots, because May is Skin Cancer Awareness month. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, in the last decade and a half the number of skin cancers has increased by 350 percent!! Although May is designated as Skin Cancer Awareness month, you need to be mindful all year long about limiting your sun exposure to avoid becoming a skin cancer statistic.
Here are some facts about the most common types of skin cancers:
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)- Accounts for 80% of all skin cancers and is the most common form of any cancer diagnosed in the United States. Basal cell carcinomas appear on areas of the body that have received the most sun and are commonly found on the face, scalp, ears, neck, hands and arms.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)- Nearly 250,000 American are diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma each year. Squamous cell carcinomas appear on areas of the body that have received the most sun and are commonly found on the face, scalp, ears, neck, hands and arms. Squamous cell can have many different appearances, like:
- A dry, crusted, scaly patch of skin that is red and swollen at the base
- A sore that won’t heal
- Crusted skin
- A thickened, crusty patch of skin with a raised border with a pebbly, granular base
Melanoma (MM)- The most serious type of skin cancer because it can metastasize (spread) quickly. Change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole could be an indication of melanoma. Moles that are exhibiting any of those characteristics should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
It’s important to have a full body exam done once a year, or as often as needed, as advised by your dermatologist. Skin cancers, especially melanoma, can be treated when caught early.
In addition to regular skin exams, here are some important tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation (http://skincancer.org/Guidelines/) to practice safe sun this summer:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.