With the warm weather upon us, everyone wants to get outside, bask in the sunshine, and soak up that Vitamin D! Although a glowing complexion is often perceived as a sign of good health, skin color obtained from the sun can actually speed up the effects of aging and increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the #1 cancer diagnosis in the United States – it’s more common than breast, prostate, and lung cancers combined.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are less serious types, making up 95 percent of all skin cancers. Melanoma, is the most serious form of skin cancer and causes 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths. Each year, some 90,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma with numbers rapidly rising.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole, change in an existing mole, or a new skin lesion.
- Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly, or waxy bump on the face, or neck, or as a flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly, flat lesion that may itch, bleed, and become crusty.
- Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.
When looking for melanoma, think of the ABCDE rule that tells you the signs to watch for:
- Asymmetry: The shape of one half doesn’t match the other.
- Border: Edges are ragged or blurred.
- Color: Uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue.
- Diameter: A significant change in size (greater than 6 mm).
- Evolution: Changes in the way a mole or lesion looks or feels (itchy, bleeding, etc).
Tips for Prevention
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two to three hours.
- Choose cosmetics that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.