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May Wellness Spotlight

May is Skin Cancer Prevention MonthSunscreen cartoon Vector Art Stock Images | Depositphotos

Warmer weather has finally arrived, and so has the sun! May is Skin Cancer Prevention Month, and in this wellness spotlight, defining skin cancer, how to spot skin cancer, and ways to prevent it are discussed.

What is skin cancer?

According to the CDC, cancer is a disease which causes the cells in the body to grow out of control. When it starts within the skin, this is known as skin cancer. It is the most common form of cancer, and is commonly caused from overexposure to ultraviolet rays. These ultraviolet rays can damage skin cells, and leave a sunburn. Over time, many sunburns can lead to changes in skin texture, along with skin aging, and the risk of skin cancer. This cancer affects five million people each year in the United States, and more than 400,000 of those cases are related to indoor tanning.

Types of skin cancer and how to detect it:

Basal cell carcinoma: This is the most common type of skin cancer. It commonly develops in those with fair skin. It looks like a pinkish patch of skin, or a pearl like bump. It is found mostly on the head, neck and arms. This type of skin cancer usually develops after years of sun exposure or indoor tanning.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin: This is the second most common type of skin cancer. It often looks like a firm red bump, and tends to form on parts of the skin with frequent sun exposure such as the face, neck, arms, chest and back.

Melanoma: This is the most serious type of skin cancer. It can develop within a mole that is already present on the skin. It can also suddenly appear as a dark spot that looks different than other moles. Early diagnosis is important for this type of skin cancer.

skin-cancer-chart Skin Cancer Tests and Treatments in the Houston Area Houston Dermatologist

Skin Cancer Myths:

  • Sunscreen is not necessary on a cloudy day or in the winter
    • This is a false statement, and sunscreen is incredibly important even on these types of days
    • Harmful ultraviolet rays are present year round and can cause damage even through clouds
  • The only way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure
    • There are other ways to get vitamin D that are not from direct sun exposure
    • Certain foods along with supplements can provide enough vitamin D
  • Young people do not have to worry about skin cancer, it only affects the older population
    • This statement is not correct and melanoma is the most common form of cancer in the age group of 25-29

Prevention Tips:

Anyone can get skin cancer, but some people are at a greater risk than others. Most skin cancers can be prevented, which is key to staying away from this type of cancer. It is recommended that you take precautions which include:

  • Seek shade
    • You can lessen the risk of skin cancer by seeking shade when possible
    • Umbrellas and trees provide shade from the sun when needed
  • Clothing
    • If possible, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants
    • Clothes made from tightly woven fabric provide the best protection
    • Invest in ultraviolet protective clothing, which includes special fabric that acts as a barrier against the sun’s rays
    • Always wear sunglasses when outside
    • Wide brim sun hats can help with protecting the face, neck, and ears from the sun
  • Wear Sunscreen
    • Apply broad spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 15+ over all parts of the body that are exposed to the sun
      • Sunscreen must be reapplied throughout the day
      • Sunscreen should be applied even on cloudy days
  • Utilize the ABCDE Method
    • Shown in the image above
    • Be aware of existing moles and examine your body regularly, looking for any changes or abnormalities in the skin
  • See a dermatologist
    • It is recommended┬áto see a dermatologist yearly for a professional skin exam
      • This can help address skin cancer in the early stages, and seek advice for prevention

Resources:

CDC

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

American Academy of Dermatology Association

Skin Cancer Foundation

The ABCDEs of Detecting Melanoma

Skin Cancer Myths

Sun Safety