In Ohio, we want to get outside as soon as the weather breaks and we feel those warm rays on our skin. Unfortunately, just one bad sunburn as a child makes you 50 percent more likely to develop melanoma as an adult. Almost everyone has a traumatic sunburn story, but that does not mean we are all doomed to a skin cancer diagnosis.
Guest post by Jaymi Doerfler, RN, Mercy Outpatient Infusion Center
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the US. It can result from overexposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds.
In Ohio, we want to get outside as soon as the weather breaks and we feel those warm rays on our skin. Unfortunately, just one bad sunburn as a child makes you 50 percent more likely to develop melanoma as an adult. Almost everyone has a traumatic sunburn story, but that does not mean we are all doomed to a skin cancer diagnosis. The good news is that there are still ways to prevent skin cancer by reducing sunburn and overexposure throughout our lives. Start protecting your skin from the sun right now. Sun safety is not just for vacations anymore.
Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!
So, how do we protect ourselves and our loved ones? Simply staying in the shade is one of the best ways to limit your exposure. If you are going to be in the sun, remember this fun phrase: Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap.
- Slip on a shirt. Retailers everywhere have started to carry UV breathable swim/sun shirts to protect shoulders, arms, and backs.
- Slop on sunscreen. Remember to use broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher and generously apply and reapply every two hours.
- Slap on a hat with at least a two- to three-inch brim all around or a shade cap sold in most sporting goods stores.
- Wrap on sunglasses that are UV protected. UV light is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and can reach the ground all year around, even on cloudy days. UV rays are most intense in the spring, on a beach near the ocean breeze and on a snowy day.
Get a Regular Physical Exam
Regular physician exams and monthly self-exams are key to early detection. Get into the habit of checking your own skin once a month and report any changes to your physician for further examination. The American Cancer Society offers a five step method for a total self-examination of the skin online at www.cancer.org.
Perform a Monthly Skin Exam
What should we look for in a monthly skin exam? Look for new growths, spots, bumps, patches, or sores that don’t heal after several weeks. Shaving cuts that don’t heal in a few days sometimes turn out to be skin cancers, which often bleed easily. (They are not caused by shaving.)
While there are a variety of skin cancers that we should look for, the one that is most aggressive and life-threatening is melanoma. If you see an area on your skin that is changing in size, shape or color, or has become itchy, bumpy or raised, this should be evaluated. In general, following the ABCDE rule can help identify abnormal skin lesions.
Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:
- A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
- D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
- E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Some melanomas do not fit the rules described above, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes, new spots, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.
Being sun smart at any age can reduce your risk of skin cancer significantly. For more information about sun safety, contact Mercy Cancer Center.