Be Well by Cathy Siley

Enjoy The Summer Sun ... Safely!

With warm weather (hopefully) just around the corner, the summer months are filled with yard work, sunny days at the shore, outdoor weekend activities, and kids sporting events.  While soaking up the sun may feel the like the standard ritual of summer, you may be putting yourself and your family at risk for the most common type of cancer in the United States ... skin cancer.   Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. UV radiation can also come from tanning booths or sunlamps. The most dangerous kind of skin cancer is called melanoma.  May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness & Prevention Month.  Are you at risk?

Symptoms of Skin Cancer:
A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn't heal, or a change in a mole.  Not all skin cancers look the same.

A simple way to remember the signs of melanoma is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma—

"A" stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
"B" stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
"C" is for color. Is the color uneven?"D" is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
"E" is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

You should have a full body, baseline examination with a dermatologist as early as possible, then schedule follow-up visits every year.  Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn't heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

Risk Factors for Developing Skin Cancer:
People with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop skin cancer. Risk factors vary for different types of skin cancer, but some general risk factors are having—

A lighter natural skin color.
A family history or personal history of skin cancer.
Exposure to the sun through work and play.
A history of sunburns, especially early in life.
A history of indoor tanning.
Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
Blue or green eyes.
Blond or red hair.
Certain types and a large number of moles.

Be aware that fair-skinned men and women aged 65 and older, and people with atypical moles or more than 50 moles, are at greater risk for melanoma.  Although darker skinned people are less likely to develop skin cancer, they are not immune and should have routine examinations.

What Else Should I Do??
To lower your skin cancer risk, protect your skin from the sun and avoid indoor tanning.  The CDC recommends these easy options—

Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
Wear clothing  that covers your arms and legs.
Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays, as well as a hat to protect the top of your head, ears, and neck.
Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection.  Apply evenly and re-apply often!
Avoid indoor tanning.

The good news? Skin cancer can almost always be cured when it's found and treated early.   So enjoy those sunny days safely, get those checkups, and Be Well!

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