Warmer temperatures are here and that means vacations to tropical destinations, time by the pool, walks in the park, and more time in the sun. I’ll admit I was definitely a sun worshiper who doesn’t love a healthy, summer glow?! Growing up, I spent many springs in the tanning bed and countless summers by the pool working on my tan and I’ve got the scars to prove it. In college I had three pre-melanomas removed, and in subsequent years, have had several more, leaving behind some rather unsightly scars. Years in the sun, with little regard to sunscreen, have left me with constant reminders to love the skin I’m in literally.
With over two million people diagnosed annually, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. Fortunately, it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, below are some quick tips to take care of your largest organ, the skin.
Always seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest. This might be peak pool and BBQ time but your skin will thank you for staying inside or finding some shade. If you can’t find shade,cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Do not burn.A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she had had five or more sunburns at any point in life. This seems like an obvious one butavoid tanning and UV tanning beds. Take note you inhabitants ofJersey Shore, UV radiation from tanning beds is known to cause cancer. Indoor UV users are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma.
Be sure touse a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreenwith an SPF of 15 or higher and for extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.Apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your entire body30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
With my history of pre-melanoma, I’m now vigilant with my head-to-toe self-exam every month. While self-exams shouldn’t replace an annual skin exam by a physician, they offer the best chance of detecting the early warning signs of skin cancer. If you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious, see your doctor immediately. Remember the ABC’s of skin cancer when evaluating a suspicious mole:
- Asymmetric: If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves will not match.
- Border:The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.
- Color: Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan, pink or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, blue or some other color. Remember pink is the new black when it comes to abnormal moles.
- Diameter: Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the size of the eraser on your pencil (about 1/4 inch), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
- Evolving: Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting points to trouble and should be checked out immediately.
After lots of scrapes, cuts and stitches, I decided maybe a tan wasn’t that great after all. I made the surprisingly easy transition from sun worshiper to sunscreen champion. And you can too. Take care of your skin when out in the sun, be sure to see a doctor every year for a professional skin exam and love the skin you’re in this summer.
*Source – The Skin Cancer Foundation
|Author: Joseph Conner|