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Soak Up the Sun…Safely

Summer is just around the corner, which mean barbeques, swimming, and SUN! And while most of us enjoy getting outside and soaking up a little Vitamin D, it is important to remember to be safe when heading outside into the sun. Per the American Academy of Dermatology Association, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and unprotected UV exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.

With that being said, it is important to follow these three steps to protect your skin:

  • Seek shade: Remember, the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10AM and 2PM
  • Wear sun-protective clothing: Sunglasses and hats are key!
  • Apply sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 30

Signs of Skin Cancer

Finding skin cancer early, before it has spread, makes it much easier to treat. If you know what to look for, you can often spot warning signs early on. Doctors recommend checking your own skin about once a month using a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. You can also use a hand mirror to check areas that are harder to see.

Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, while basal and squamous cell skin cancers are more common but are usually very treatable. The American Cancer Society’s website discusses these types of skin cancers and what to look out for.

Melanoma

Use the “ABCDE” rule to look for some of the common signs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry – one part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other
  • Border – the edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred
  • Color – the color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue
  • Diameter – the spot is larger than ¼ inch across (although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this)
  • Evolving – the mole is changing in size, shape, or color

Basal Cell Carcinomas

These types of skin cancers typically grow on parts of the body that get the most sun, such as the face, head, and neck. However, they can still show up anywhere. Here is what you should look for:

  • Flat, firm, pale, or yellow areas (similar to a scar)
  • Raised reddish patches, might be itchy
  • Small shiny, pearly bumps that are pink or red
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in the center, which might have abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a wheel
  • Open sores that may have oozing or crusted areas and do not heal, or heal and then come back

Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Similarly to basal cell carcinomas, these typically grow on the parts of the body that get the most sun but can appear anywhere. You should look for:

  • Rough or scaly red patches, which may crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
  • Open sores that may have oozing or crusted areas and do not heal, or heal and then come back
  • Wart-like growths

Talk to Your Doctor

Although these are good examples of what to look for, some skin cancers may look different than these descriptions. It is important to talk to your doctor about anything you are concerned about, such as new spots and other skin changes.

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