Be Aware: What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

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We are almost halfway through the year and now the that days begin to get warmer, you may be thinking about spending more time outdoors. Whether it’s laying out by the pool, going to the beach, or an afternoon hike — what ever your favorite outdoor activity may be, chances are that you’ll be spending more time under the sun.

Most of us know the importance of sun protection.  Yet, it can still be so easy to forget something as simple as your bottle of sunscreen.

The truth is that something that seems so trivial can actually save your life. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer with nearly 5.4 million cases annually according to skincancer.org. Newly diagnosed cases have dramatically increased in the last several years.

What is Cancer?
Cancer begins when cells multiply and grow out of control. This growth causes a mass called a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant. Malignant tumors are cancerous and they can spread to other parts of the body damaging tissues and organs. This is precisely what makes cancer such a deadly condition.

The majority of skin cancers are malignant but do not affect other parts of the body. These are referred to as carcinomas. In contrast, malignant melanomas can be very aggressive and invade other parts of the body. If not caught early, malignant melanomas can be fatal.

All forms of skin cancer begin with lesions. Moles are a form of lesion but most do not evolve into cancer. However, any irregular looking mole should be checked out by a medical professional.

Causes

Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays is the main cause of skin cancer. Other causes include frequent use of tanning booths, high exposure to radiation like x-rays, certain types of chemicals that damage the skin, and impairment of the immune system.

People with fair skin are more prone to skin cancer as they have less melanin than people with darker complexions. Melanin provides some protection against sun damage. However, regardless of your skin tone, all of us need to be applying protection on regular basis.

Other causes include family history, individuals with a large amount of moles or unusual moles, and people who have sustained burns.

The ABCDE’s of Melanoma

Malignant melanomas are a result of intense UV exposure. Most appear as black or dark brown lesions on the skin.

The following guide is a simple but effective tool in determining whether a mole is harmless or something to be taken more seriously.

A- Asymmetry

Benign moles are symmetrical, meaning that they are of equal size. Malignant melanomas on the other hand, are asymmetrical, meaning that all sides will be uneven.

B- Border

Benign moles have smooth and even borders. Melanomas have irregular borders and notched edges.

C – Color

Benign moles are one color, usually an even shade of brown. Melanomas can have multiple shades of color.

D – Diameter

Benign moles have smaller diameters than melanomas which are considerably larger. However, melanomas start off smaller in size when they first appear.

E – Evolving

If you notice that a mole begins to change its appearance over time then this could be a warning sign.

Prevention

If you plan to be out in the sun be sure to apply sunscreen before going outdoors. Reapply every 2 hours. If you have little ones, make sure that they are protected as well before they go out to swim or play in the sun.

The skin cancer association recommends using an SPF 15 or higher. However, sunscreen alone will not protect you. If possible, you should avoid sun exposure all together between the hours of 10am and 4pm when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.

Don’t burn! This may seem obvious but it can be easy to fall asleep under the sun when you’re laying out. The next thing you know is that you’re waking up to sunburns. Use a broad spectrum SPF that protects against both UVA & UVB rays like our own SPF formula. This will ensure maximum protection against the sun.

Also, be sure to keep an eye on your skin for any unusual moles and get physically examined by your doctor every year.

If caught early enough, harmful melanomas can be successfully removed through simple outpatient surgical procedures. Therefore, with the right care and prevention methods, this is a condition which can mostly be avoided.

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