Did you know that one in five Americans are expected to develop some form of skin cancer during the lifetimes? That’s an incredible statistic, especially considering that these diseases are often preventable. It’s for this reason that we’d like to remind our readers that May is National Skin Cancer Prevention Month.
Since it has become the most common form of cancer, health care specialists have taken it upon themselves to inspire more communities to get involved during the month of May. We figured that we could do our part to get involved, so we’d like to share with you some tips on how you can protect yourself and your family from skin cancer while spending time in the sun this summer.
Before we share some of these prevention tips, there’s one thing we need for you to do– get to know the skin you’re in. It may sound cliche, but this is the best way to identify potential problems early on. That way you can schedule an appointment with your dermatologist if you notice a suspicious looking mole, bump or spot that wasn’t there before.
Take Action Against Skin Cancer this Summer
Here are a few skin cancer prevention tips to put into practice this summer:
- Make sure that you apply sunscreen (going for an SPF of at least 30 is recommended) to all parts of your body that are going to be exposed to the sun. Even if it’s cloudy outside, experts suggest that you reapply the sunscreen every two hours (you might also consider wearing sunscreen regularly throughout the year, not just during the summer).
- Protective clothing (sunglasses, pants, long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats) should be worn when possible. We aren’t going to ask you to never sunbathe, but you should take precaution when spending time laying in the sun. We do highly recommend avoiding tanning beds as these have proven to be quite dangerous.
- You should be getting your skin checked once every year by a dermatologist, and you should also be performing self-checks every month or so. This is a really great way to keep tabs on any pesky freckles or moles (especially if they are on a part of the body that is exposed often). Some have even taken to body photography, so they can provide a photographic record of these “to watch” spots to their doctor.
Learn Your ABCDEs for Melanoma
The American Academy of Dermatology also spends a lot of time teaching people about the “ABCDE Rule” during Skin Cancer Prevention Month. This relatively simple rule helps to outline the warning signs for melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
So when you check out a mole on your body, keep your ABCDEs in mind:
- A stands for Asymmetry – Does one portion of the mole not match the other? This could be a sign for melanoma.
- B stands for Border Irregularity – Are the edges of the mole notched, blurred or even ragged in appearance? Irregular borders on a mole should be reported to your doctor.
- C stands for Color – Do you see color variations between different spots on the same mole? Look for different shades of brown or tan, even red, white or blue.
- D stands for Diameter – Melanoma is usually about the size of a pencil eraser (6 millimeters) when it is diagnosed, but it could be smaller. Stay sharp!
- E stands for Evolving – Keep an eye out for a mole that seems different than usual or has been changed in size, shape or color.
Studies have shown that people with light or fair skin are more at risk for these diseases, but the truth is that anyone with skin can develop skin cancer. So remember to take the time to learn about your skin and stay vigilant. Don’t ignore changes or new spots, because catching skin cancer early on means that it can be treated much more easily.