According to the American Academy of Dermatology, half of us would not be able to spot skin cancer. Now, I’m not entirely sure those statistics apply to the readers of this blog because I think you all are exceptionally intelligent and much smarter than the average bear. :)
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer? More than 2 million people are diagnosed with it each year.
Did you know that some cancers and other immune-suppressing diseases can increase your risk of developing skin cancer? Not to mention the chemotherapy that suppresses your immune system makes you more susceptible to skin cancer. How’s that for a nasty side effect? Seems a little unfair to me. :)
However, did you also know that skin cancer is highly treatable if detected early and that there are numerous things we can do to try to prevent it? Whew! Finally, some good news. You thought I was going to be a total downer today, didn’t you??
There are three major types of skin cancer:
- Basil Cell Carcinoma (the most common)
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (second most common)
- Melanoma (the least common, but the most serious if left untreated)
It is important to educate yourself so that if you see it on you or someone you love, you will recognize it for what it is. The key is to pay attention so that when you notice a change in a spot on your skin, you can have it checked.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends doing personal self exams once a month and getting a full body scan from a dermatologist once a year. A good dermatologist will check everywhere – face, arms, legs, back, scalp, and even in between your toes – because you can get it there.
So what should you be looking for when examining yourself?
- A growth or spot on your skin that is scaly and possibly goes away but then comes back.
- Moles that are asymmetrical (not nice and round, but odd shaped).
- Moles that have a ragged or blurred border.
- Moles that have variations in color.
- Moles that are larger than a pencil eraser.
- Moles that are changing – shrinking, growing, bleeding, or itching.
Some people are more likely to get skin cancer than others. Those with fair skin and light colored eyes (yes, you can get skin cancer in your eyes – I just recently learned this) are more susceptible and must take extra precaution. People who have received radiation treatments are also at higher risk as are people with a family history of skin cancer and those who received many sunburns/blisters in their past.
All this being said, there are things you can do avoid skin cancer. What is that phrase – the best treatment is prevention? The good news is that there are lots of ways to prevent, or minimize, your risk of getting skin cancer that don’t require us staying locked up in our homes avoiding the sun – because that is no fun and not good for us, either.
- Wear sunscreen! Full disclosure here: I work for the company that makes BullFrog Sunscreen. They are not paying me to say this, but I believe it is a fantastic sunscreen and works very well. But you have to wear it in order for it to work. :)
- Thoroughly apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going in the sun, reapply after getting in the water or sweating, and don’t forget the tips of your ears and your lips!
- Avoid being in the sun between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm when the sun is at its hottest and the ultraviolet rays are at their strongest.
- Remember you can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day (I learned this the hard way as a teenager even though my dad warned me about it!)
- Please stay out of tanning beds. You are beautiful as you are and it’s just not worth the risk.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month and because I love you guys, I wanted to share this information with you. Maybe you already knew this stuff. But maybe you learned something you didn’t know that could help you avoid this form of cancer? I hope so. No matter what, just pay attention to changes on your skin and go see your doc if you notice something funny. Better to have him/her check it and tell you it’s nothing than to wait and it turn into something.
The following sites have a ton of information about skin cancer and prevention:
- Skin Cancer Foundation: Skin Cancer Facts
- American Academy of Dermatology: Melanoma Monday
- Mayo Clinic: Melanoma Symptoms
- WebMD: Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms Slidshow
- National Cancer Institute: What You Need to Know About Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers
Enjoy the sun, but let’s be smart about it. Here’s to healthy, cancer-free skin!