Over 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, making it America’s most common cancer. Nearly 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and about 85 percent of melanoma cases of skin cancer are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, fortunately, making skin cancer one of the most preventable forms of cancer. In light of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and before heading outdoors this summer, we encourage you to educate yourself on ways to maintain superior skin health.
The ABCDE’s of Moles
While Skin Cancer Awareness Month is a great reminder to check on the health of your skin, it’s important to do regular self skin-checks year-round. The most common signs of skin cancer are changes in your skin, which is why regularly examining your skin can alert you to any new or changing skin growths and may aid in early detection of precancerous or cancerous lesions. If you notice any new skin growths, a sore that doesn’t heal properly or notice changes in moles, make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately.
Moles should be checked by the following:
A: Asymmetry – Moles should appear symmetrical. If one half doesn’t match the other, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.
B: Border – Moles should have smooth, round borders. Atypical moles and melanoma often have irregular or uneven borders.
C: Color – Benign moles tend to be one color. If you find a mole on your skin with multiple colors or if the color changes, this can be a warning sign.
D: Diameter – Benign moles are usually smaller than 6mm in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser). Larger moles should always be examined by a dermatologist. However, melanoma can be smaller when diagnosed early.
E: Evolving – Any change over time of existing moles should be noted and discussed with your dermatologist. Evolution in size, shape and color may indicate precancerous or cancerous cells.
The 3 P’s of Healthy Skin + Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
The best way to keep your skin healthy is by following the “3 P’s” to avoid sun damage: Protection, Prevention and Preservation. Sun protection is important all year round. Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours. Even with sunscreen on, it’s important to cover up when outdoors. Wear a rash guard, hat and sunglasses when at the beach and pool and use protective clothing while engaging in other outdoor activities. When possible, avoid sun exposure during peak sun times. The sun is at its strongest from 10am to 4pm. Seek shade whenever possible. Make sure to bring an umbrella for extended bouts of sun exposure.
In addition, the following tips are important for skin cancer prevention:
- Say no to tanning beds! Even a controlled dose of ultraviolet radiation can be harmful and may even be more damaging than the rays of the sun.
- Your age doesn’t make you invincible. Just because you are young and the average age of those diagnosed with skin cancer lies in the 45-55 range, around a quarter of all cases occur in those under 40. So regardless of your age, make sure you protect yourself!
- Be vigilant with sunscreen even if you are not light skinned! While those with darker skin are statistically less likely to develop skin cancer, the risk still exists for everyone. It’s important no matter how fair or dark your skin is to lather up and protect all exposed areas of skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
- Also check non-exposed parts of the body – melanoma can be diagnosed from anywhere from the soles of your feet to beneath the fingernails! Another reason self skin-examinations and regular dermatology appointments are important.
Skin Cancer Awareness Month is the time to be reminded to make that appointment to have your annual dermatology check-up. Contact our office today at 913-469-1115 to make an appointment with Dr. Kaplan and the team at Adult and Pediatric Dermatology.