Summer Skin Protection

Skin protection is an important part of everyday health and wellness, especially in the summer when the sun’s rays are most intense. Keep your skin safe with adequate skin protection and by learning the risks and signs of skin cancer.

Approximately two million people in this country are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer each year. Non-melanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Both types are common and are almost always cured when found early and properly treated. Up to 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays. People who've had skin cancer once are at risk for getting it again.

There are also 76,000 new cases of melanoma each year, resulting in approximately 10,000 annual deaths. Melanoma skin cancers are more aggressive and not as easily treated as non-melanoma skin cancers.

If you have a parent or a sibling diagnosed with melanoma, you have a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disease, compared to someone without a family history of this disease.
People having fair skin, light eyes and light hair are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. An estimated 40 to 50 percent of fair-skinned people who live to be 65 will develop at least one skin cancer.

Other risk factors for skin cancer include:

• An abundance of large and irregularly shaped moles.
• A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns.
• Living at high altitudes or with year-round sunshine.
• Previous radiation treatments.
You may be surprised, however, to learn that people of all ethnic groups and skin types are at risk. Although infrequent, skin cancer is most deadly for African-American, Latino and Asian groups, because of a low early-detection rate.

Everyone should use sunscreen daily with an SPF of 30 or higher. Limit your exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest. Wear a hat and sunglasses and cover up with clothing to protect your skin.

All types of skin cancer (melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma) often start as changes to your skin. They could be new growths or precancerous lesions. These skin changes may not be cancerous now, but could become cancer over time.
Know the “ABCDE” rule to evaluate any skin changes that might indicate skin cancer, especially melanoma. Check to see if any mole or freckle has:

• An Asymmetrical appearance. For example, one half of a mole does not seem to match the other half.
• Irregular Borders or ragged or blurred edges.
• A Color that is not consistent. A mole that doesn’t have the same color throughout or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red is suspicious.
• Increased in Diameter. A mole is suspicious if the diameter is larger than the eraser tip of a pencil.
Evolved in character or is spreading. Melanoma lesions often grow in size or rapidly change in height. 

A dermatologist should check any mole or freckle that looks different from others or shows any characteristics of the ABCDE rule.

The dermatologist may want to remove a tissue sample from a suspicious mole and biopsy it. If found to be cancerous, the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it needs be removed. Additional treatment may be required. Remember, if you notice any changes to your skin such as a new growth, a mole changing appearance, or a sore that won't heal, get it checked out promptly.