You can take steps to reduce your risk of this serious skin cancer
About 1 in 5 people will experience skin cancer in their lives, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. While this is a frightening statistic, the good news is that you can take steps to lower your risk of getting skin cancer. These include:
- Staying out of the sun—find the shade!
- Using sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and reapplying every 2 hours
- Covering up with clothing as much as possible (long sleeves, brimmed hat)
- Avoiding tanning beds
- Performing monthly skin self-exams
There are four main types of skin cancer: Actinic keratosis is a pre-cancerous growth that can later develop into squamous cell carcinoma. A dermatologist can remove these growths with a simple procedure. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and tends to appear like a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or pink patch of skin. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type. It tends to appear like a firm red bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals but then re-opens. The fourth type of skin cancer—melanoma—is the least common but the most deadly. It frequently develops within an existing mole, or it can appear as a new dark spot or growth on the skin.
Early detection of skin cancer
In all types of skin cancer, early detection is the best way to get treatment started and stop the spread of the disease. One of the most important steps in early detection is a monthly self-examination. The American Academy of Dermatology offers a body mole map where you can map out your existing moles and approximately how big they are. This way you have a baseline from which to compare any changes.
Next, the website shows you how to perform a skim exam and what to look for. To understand what you should be looking for, you can use the ABCDE’s of melanoma. The ABCDE’s are an easy way to remember the kinds of changes you are trying to spot. You should be looking for moles or growths that are:
B = irregular border
C = change in color
D = diameter larger than the size of a pencil eraser or have
E = evolved in size or thickness
For those who want help with skin examinations, you can see your family physician or make an appointment with a dermatologist. Free exams are also available periodically through the American Academy of Dermatologists’ SPOTme® Skin Cancer Screening. This website allows you to search by zip code for the next free screening in your area.
We hope this article has raised your awareness of melanoma and convinced you to begin doing skin self-exams. Remember, if you notice any of the ABCDE signs on your body, or anything that looks suspicious to you, don’t wait. Contact a doctor as soon as possible. Catching skin cancers early, whether they are squamous cell, basal cell, or melanoma, will give you your best chance for treatment. Why not start your monthly self-exams now?
The Harris Casel Institute, located in Melbourne, FL, wants to help raise awareness among its students, staff, and community about the importance of skin cancer self-exams. Our school is committed to health issues. We offer training in fields such as nursing assistant, home health aide, medical biller and coder, and practical nursing. Contact us for more info!