Summer is just around the corner and many of us are anxious to get on our summer tan. But we need to be cautious about how we care for our skin. Each year more than two million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States, and the incidence is increasing.
The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Of the skin cancers, melanoma is the most serious, with a high death rate if not caught early. Melanoma accounts for approximately five percent of all skin cancers. All skin cancers are linked to sun exposure. Interestingly, melanoma is linked to high-intensity exposure that leads to sunburn, whereas the other cancers are linked to accumulative exposure. In other words, the more sunburns you get, and the more severe the sunburns, the higher your risk of developing melanoma.
People who are at higher risk for developing melanoma are those who:
1) Are fair-skinned - often red-heads or blonds with freckles
2) Have green or blue eyes
3) Have a family history or personal history of melanoma
4) Have more than 50 large moles
5) Have a personal history of other cancers
Signs of melanoma include new spots on the skin or a change in size, shape or color of an existing mole. The ABCD rule is another way to recognize abnormal growths that may be melanoma skin cancer:
- A is for Asymmetry: A mole that has an irregular shape or two different looking halves.
- B is for Border: Irregular, blurred, rough or notched edges may be signs of melanoma.
- C is for Color: Most moles are an even color – brown, black, tan or even pink – but changes in the shade or distribution of color throughout the mole can signal melanoma.
- D is for Diameter: Moles larger than ¼ inch across (6 mm, the size of a pencil eraser) may be suspect, although some melanoma cancers may be smaller than this.
Other melanoma cancer symptoms may include:
- Sores that do not heal
- Pigment, redness or swelling that spreads outside the border of a spot to the surrounding skin
- Itchiness, tenderness or pain
- Changes in texture or scales, oozing or bleeding from an existing mole
As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to the prevention of skin cancer, especially melanoma, this couldn’t be truer. The American Academy of Dermatology website site does a great job of providing guidelines for sunscreen use and other preventative measures that will help you protect your skin most effectively.
So with your sunscreen in hand and a Softcup in your bag, go enjoy the fun summer has to offer; just be smart about it.