Know your ABC's of Skin Cancer
Cancer, it is a scary thing! It doesn't matter your age, race, gender. It does not discriminate, no one is immune to it. My family has a history of cancer so I am all too aware that I am a high risk candidate for it. Unfortunately, we can't always protect ourselves from developing most forms of cancer. However, there is one form we can be diligent about in hopes that we will never get it. Skin cancer. Did you know that 1 out of 5 people will develop skin cancer? (1) It was estimated that over 76,000 new cases of invasive melanoma would be diagnosed this year alone. (2)
There are two groups of skin cancer: non-melanoma & melanoma. First lets go over the important ABC's of skin cancer for melanoma.
- A = Asymmetry - Is a spot or mole not the same on one side as it is the other?
- B = Border - Is the outer edge a little jagged or irregular instead of being smooth?
- C = Color - Are there varying colors or different shades of color on the spot or mole?
- D = Diameter - Is the spot or mole bigger than 1/4" in a diameter (think pencil eraser)?
- E = Evolving - Is it changing shape, size, or color?
If you answered yes to any of these you should discuss the spots or moles in question with your doctor or dermatologist. There are also a few signs to be on the lookout for with non-melanoma skin cancer.
- Basal Cell - Typically, signs of this cancer appear as a waxy lump or brown scaly patch on areas of the skin that are often exposed to the sun. The waxy lump may seem translucent and can often times bleed.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma - Typically, signs of this cancer appear as scaly red patches, ulcers, or elevated growths with the center indented. These too may bleed or become crusty.
When in doubt, talk to your doctor. If skin cancer is caught in the early stages it can easily be treatable. So what are things we can do to protect ourselves?
- If you are prone to skin cancer, stay covered when outdoors. Wear long sleeves and pants or long skirts. Choose things that are lightweight so you don't become easily overheated.
- Wear a hat to cover your face and sunglasses to protect your eyes. While this may seem rather simple, it can help tremendously. Not only will the hat protect your face, it will protect your scalp.
- SUNSCREEN SUNSCREEN SUNSCREEN!!!! Apply if you can 30 minutes before heading out in the sun. And the most important part that people often forget to do, REAPPY! Every two hours you should be slathering that stuff on again. Set a reminder on your phone if need be. Even if the sunscreen tells you it can last up to 4 hours, reapply every 2. And don't forget your sunscreen during colder months. Especially if you will be doing anything in the snow.
- Examine your skin from head to toe on a monthly basis. Think of it as your wellness check. Make notes to help remind you or take pictures.
While all of these seem rather simple, sometimes we have a hard time remembering to take care of our skin. I even find myself sometimes saying, "Just this once won't hurt right?" The problem is that once turns into multiple times. Be your own advocate and take care of yourself, because there is no one else in the world like you. If you'd like to learn more, I highly suggest visiting: http://www.skincancer.org. They have an amazing amount of information!
- Robinson, JK. Sun exposure, sun protection, and vitamin D. JAMA 2005; 294:1541-43.
- Cancer Facts and Figures 2016. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@research/documents/document/acspc-047079.pdf. Accessed September 12, 2016.
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