In Honor of Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month:
How to Detect and Protect
Stephanie Sobol, M.A.Ed., Health Educator
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Annually, more than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed. Did you know there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Wow! Ninety percent of all skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. To protect your skin, minimize your exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun and/or indoor tanning beds.
Early detection is key! If identified early most skin cancers are curable. Perform a monthly head-to-toe exam to look for new moles and/or changes in lesions using the ABCDE Rules for early skin cancer detection.
Asymmetry. One half doesn’t match the appearance of the other half.
Border. The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color. The color (pigmentation) is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to a mottled appearance.
Diameter. The size of the mole is greater than 1/4 inch (6 mm), about the size of a pencil eraser. Any growth of a mole should be evaluated.
Evolution. There is a change in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or color of a mole.
If you spot any changes make an appointment to have the lesion looked at by a medical professional. And, always have an annual skin check to monitor changes in the skin by a medical professional.
Healthy Sun Habits
Adopt these healthy sun habits to reduce your risk for skin cancer:
1. Apply 2 tablespoons of broad spectrum sunscreen daily with SPF 15 or higher to exposed skin, including lips 30 minutes prior to going in the sun. For extended outdoor activity use SPF 30 or higher. Reapply every two hours and after exercising or swimming.
2. Wear dark or bright colored, tightly woven fabrics (look for UPF, ultraviolet protection factor, of 30+).
3. Wear a 3″ wide brimmed hat to protect scalp, neck and face.
4. Wear sunglasses with UVB/UVA protection that wrap around the side.
5. Stay in the shade from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
6. Keep infants out of direct sunlight. Apply sunscreen to babies over 6 months of age.
7. Avoid tanning or tanning beds.
8. Do not burn.
Prevention and early detection are the keys to reducing your risk for dangerous skin cancer lesions that can lead to long-term health effects. Protect and detect for healthy skin!
Source: American Academy of Dermatology