May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and you may be wondering what you can do to make a difference during this important time. There are many ways to participate by protecting yourself and your loved ones from skin cancer and spreading awareness. Start by understanding the facts …
Nearly one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Each year more skin cancers are diagnosed than all other cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon combined. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color.
Skin cancer is the most preventable form of cancer and very treatable if caught early
Although skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, affecting an estimated 1.3 million Americans each year, there is good news. Skin cancer is also the most preventable form of cancer and very treatable if caught early.
Wearing sunscreen year around is one of the most effective ways of preventing skin cancer. Be sure to reapply every two hours if you are sweating or swimming, because no sunscreen is 100% waterproof. Choose a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher with UVA and UVB protection (broad spectrum), and apply it correctly.
Sunscreen should not be your only form of defense against the sun. Wearing protective clothing and a hat is also essential. The sun’s UV rays are heaviest between 10 a.m and 4 p.m., so limit sun exposure during these hours.
Getting yearly skin cancer screenings is another way to protect yourself from skin cancer. Screenings are invaluable and may save your life! In between your annual dermatologist visits, keep an eye on your skin and perform self-examines each month. Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma, and if you see anything that looks suspicious, call your dermatologist:
- A – Asymmetrical Shape: Melanoma spots are often irregular in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
- B – Border: Normally, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma spots usually have irregular edges.
- C – Color: More than one color (black, blue, brown, tan) or uneven color can sometimes be a sign of melanoma.
- D – Diameter: Melanoma spots are often greater than 6 millimeters (approximately the size of a pencil eraser).
- E – Evolution: If a mole has gone through recent changes in size and/or color, see a dermatologist immediately.
Protect your friends and family
After you have secured sun protection for yourself, keep your friends and family protected as well, especially children. Just one severe sunburn during childhood or adolescence doubles a child’s chance of developing skin cancer later in life. Create and maintain a sunscreen application routine for children before any sun exposure. Purchase UV protective clothing, keeping in mind darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors.
Just one severe sunburn during childhood or adolescence doubles a child’s chance of developing skin cancer later in life
Don’t forget to protect your child’s eyes from the sun, as exposure can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around the head and block as close to 100% of UVA and UVB rays as possible.
Share your story
If you or a loved one have been affected by skin cancer, it is beneficial to share your story with others, especially during Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May. You can relay your skin cancer experience through many platforms including social media. The Skin Cancer Foundation uses the hashtag #MySkinCareJourney to share skin cancer stories on social media. Sharing your story may be therapeutic for you and could be life-saving for someone else.
Raise awareness through education
Share educational skin cancer information with others. The more your friends and family know about skin cancer and the risks of UV exposure, the safer they will be. Help them understand that it is never too early or too late to start protecting themselves against skin cancer. Damage from the sun is cumulative, meaning people of all ages need to protect themselves from the sun daily.
Another way to help spread awareness during May is to get involved in a skin cancer organization. You can find opportunities to host a fundraiser or volunteer at local events. The Skin Cancer Foundation is a global organization devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer and a great resource to get involved.
Skin cancer detection and treatment
The physicians at Columbia Skin Clinic are here to help protect our patients by providing skin cancer screenings and Mohs surgery. For more information about skin cancer or to schedule a skin cancer screening, please contact one of our three Midlands locations.