Summer is here, which means more fun in the sun! However, you might be putting yourself at risk for skin cancer if you aren’t cautious.
There are several different types of skin cancer, including melanoma and non-melanoma cancers. Each type of cancer affects different layers of the skin and its cells.
What is Melanoma?
While melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, it is the deadliest. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one person dies from melanoma every 54 minutes in the U.S. Although it can form anywhere on the body (including nails, eyes and feet), it’s most commonly found in skin cells. These cells, known as melanocytes, are responsible for coloring your eyes, skin and hair.
Other types of skin cancer, known as non-melanoma skin cancers, are more common and less dangerous. These include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which commonly appear in sun-exposed areas of the skin. Moles form in melanocytes, which can be a risk factor for melanoma. Most moles do not become melanoma, but if you notice unusual changes in the mole, you may be at risk.
Know the Warning Signs
Unusual moles, sores, lumps, blemishes, markings or changes in the way an area of the skin looks or feels can signal melanoma.
According to the American Cancer Society, “The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color. Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin (known as the ugly duckling sign).” If you show any of these warning signs, have your skin checked by a doctor as soon as possible.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Research suggests that approximately 90 percent of skin cancers can be linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or artificial sources, such indoor tanning beds. The Melanoma Research Foundation proposes that just one blistering sunburn can double your chances of developing melanoma later in life.
How Can I Prevent It?
There are a few prevention guidelines you should know:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma is almost always curable if detected early. If not, it can quickly spread to other parts of the body and become fatal.
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