arrived! For many of us that means heading to sunny spots like the beach, lake
or pool. It’s the perfect time to enjoy outdoor time with family and friends,
but, before you venture out, it’s important to protect yourself from the sun and
be informed about skin cancer.
Many of us
love the bronze glow the sun gives our skin, but beware, too much exposure to
ultraviolet radiation (tanning beds and sunshine) causes permanent damage to
our skin. Over the years this can lead to the rapid growth of abnormal cells
resulting in a malignant tumor, or skin cancer.
common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. It begins in the deepest
layer of the skin, the epidermis. This type of skin cancer typically develops
on parts of the skin that get the most sun exposure; the head, neck, face and
the back of your hands. Basal cell
carcinoma grows slowly, however treatment is extremely important since it can
grow deep within the skin destroying skin, tissue and even bone.
the Skin Cancer Foundation, squamous cell cancer is the second most common form
of skin cancer. People with squamous cell cancer often develop red, scaly
patches, open sores, or warts on their skin. Squamous cell carcinoma is the
result of years and years of intense sun exposure. Think back to all the summers
at the beach without any sunscreen and getting sunburned. Squamous cell
carcinoma isn’t usually life-threatening, but can certainly become dangerous if
dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanoma originates in the pigment
producing cells within the basal layer of your skin. Melanoma can develop
anywhere on the skin. For men it’s common to affect the chest and back, whereas
in women, the legs are the most common site. When detected early, melanoma is
typically curable, however, if it goes undetected, it can spread to other parts
of the body and become more difficult to treat and cure.
recommended that you perform a self-examination of your skin each month to look
for any new or changing moles, freckles or bumps. Stand in front of a full
length mirror and examine the front and back of your body, also, raise your
arms and look at your sides again. Bend your elbows and be sure to check your
hands, palms and underarms. Check your legs, feet and between your toes as
well. Using a hand held mirror examine your face, neck, scalp and ears.
Finally, check your lower and upper back and buttocks using a hand held mirror.
Keep in mind
the ABCDE rule of skin cancer which provides an easy way to recognize moles and
growths. A – Asymmetry. A normal mole will be completely symmetrical; if you
drew a line through it, each half would be the same. A suspicious mole will not
look the same on both sides. B – Border. A mole with jagged or blurry edges
should be checked. C – Color. Moles that are more than one color (brown, red
and/or black) should be evaluated. Normal moles are one color. D – Diameter.
Rule of thumb is if a spot is larger than a pencil eraser, or about ¼ inch, it
should be examined. Lastly, E – Elevation/Evolving. If a mole is raised above
the surface, or has an uneven surface and looks different from the last time
you checked, or has changed in color, get it checked out.
skin! Sun exposure at any age can cause skin cancer. Those
who burn easily, spend a lot of time outdoors, have numerous moles and/or freckles,
are fair-skinned, or have light colored hair (blond, red or light brown) should
be especially careful of the sun’s harmful rays. If possible, avoid the sun, or
stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest, between 10 am – 4 pm.
sunscreen! Daily use of a broad-spectrum (ultra violet A&B) sunscreen with
an SPF of at least 15 should be is recommended for the areas of skin that are
most frequently exposed to the sun (face, neck, ears and backs of hands). Sunscreens
provide protection by absorbing, reflecting or scattering the sun's rays.
Sunscreens are rated according to their effectiveness by the sun protection
factor (SPF). A product's SPF number tells you how long the product will
protect you before you need to reapply, and how long you can stay in the sun
without burning. For example, you may normally burn in 20 minutes. If you apply
an SPF 15 sunscreen, you'll be protected for about 300 minutes, or five hours
(SPF 15 x 20 minutes = 300 minutes). Always reapply after swimming or sweating
as sunscreen will become less effective. Sunscreen should be used on infants
over 6 months old. Newborns should be protected from sun exposure, keeping them
indoors during peak hours, or in the shade.
Cover up while
outdoors, and be sure your little ones are in the shade, or covered up as well.
Protective clothing such as lightweight long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats,
and sunglasses should also be used. Be sure to wear sunglasses that provide
100% UV protection – sun exposure can cause damage to the eyes as well.
summer off with a piece of mind by scheduling a visit to your dermatologist for
a thorough skin check. Also, be sure to monitor your own skin, by doing a
monthly skin check - taking note of any new moles, freckles or spots that look
unusual or have changed. Our skin is the largest organ in the body – show it
some love and protect it, it has to last a lifetime!