May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. 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.

The good news? Skin cancer can almost always be cured when it’s found and treated early. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to prevent skin cancer or detect it early on.

This May, spread the word about strategies for preventing skin cancer and encourage communities, organizations, families, and individuals to get involved.

Ways to Make a difference and help prevent skin cancer:

  • Encourage families to adopt good habits together, like wearing sunscreen and limiting their time in the sun.
  • Motivate teachers and administrators to teach kids about the harm of UV radiation and why it’s important to protect yourself.
  • Identify youth leaders in your community who can talk to their peers about taking steps to prevent skin cancer.
  • Partner with a local hospital, state fair, or similar organization to host a skin cancer screening event.

Protect Yourself
Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation(https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/ultraviolet.htm) is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow. Indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan) exposes users to UV radiation.

The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Daylight Saving Time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors in the continental United States. UV rays from sunlight are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.
CDC recommends easy options for protection from UV radiation—

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.(https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/indoor_tanning.htm)
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.

Where skin cancer develops
Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women. But it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms and beneath your fingernails or toenails.

Skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. When melanoma occurs in people with dark skin tones, it's more likely to occur in areas not normally exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Skin cancer symptoms
Non-melanoma skin cancer symptoms

While symptoms of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma vary, an unusual skin growth, bump or sore that doesn't go away may be the first indication of a non-melanoma skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinomas on the head or neck may first appear as a pale patch of skin or a waxy translucent bump. It may be possible to see blood vessels in the center of the bump or there may be an indentation in the center. If the carcinoma develops on the chest it may look more like a brownish scar or flesh-colored lesion. As the cancer develops, it may bleed if injured or ooze and become crusty in some areas.

Squamous cell carcinomas may also develop as a lump on the skin. However, these firm lumps may be rough on the surface, unlike the smooth and pearly appearance of a basal cell carcinoma. If a nodule doesn't form, the cancer may develop more like a reddish scaly patch. Whereas a skin rash may go away with time, these rough lesion-like patches remain and continue to develop slowly. This type of cancer typically is found on the head, neck, hands or arms, but they can also develop in other areas, such as the genital region or in scars or skin sores.

However, both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas may also develop as a flat area that does not look much different from normal skin, so it is important be aware of the symptoms of skin cancer and discuss any changes with your doctor.

Checking for skin cancer symptoms
Regular examination of the skin for any new or unusual growths, or changes in the size, shape or color of an existing spot, is key to finding and treating skin cancers early. If you find anything suspicious, you should discuss it with your primary care physician or a dermatologist.

While many skin cancers develop in areas exposed to the sun, they may also develop in areas that are usually hidden from the sun. It is important to examine all of these areas. In addition to examining the legs, trunk, arms, face and neck, it is important to look for signs of skin cancer in the areas between the toes, underneath nails, palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and even the eyes.

The American Academy of Dermatology’s 2017 SPOT Skin Cancer™ campaign — “Check Your Partner. Check Yourself” — is encouraging women to check both their partners and themselves for signs of skin cancer. When detected early, skin cancer — including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer — is highly treatable. Research has shown that women are nine times more likely than men to notice melanoma on others, which means women could help save their partners' lives by helping them spot skin cancer. This is especially important for men over 50 as they have an increased risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population.

- See more at: https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/programs/skin-cancer-awareness-month#sthash.BGQjITS9.dpuf

Websites Cited:
https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/MayToolkit2.aspx
https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/programs/skin-cancer-awareness-month
http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/prevention-guidelines
https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm

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