May is National Skin Care Prevention and Detection Month, as well as Melanoma Awareness Month.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US, and the most treatable when caught early. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Here are 3 things to know about skin cancer:
1. Practice safe sun exposure
An estimated 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Early sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer, especially if you experienced frequent sunburns as a child.
Sunscreen has been proven to reduce the risk of most skin cancers, so it’s important to use a good sunscreen daily – even in the winter months.
Limit your outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest.
2. Understand your risk factors
Anyone, regardless of skin color, can develop cancer. Fair skin, blue eyes or red hair face a greater risk, as well as patients with a weakened immune system. Exposure to radiation or certain substances like arsenic or coal tar may increase your risk.
People who smoke are also more likely to develop skin cancer, especially on the lips.
3. Learn the ABCDE’s of skin cancer
Regular skin checks by your doctor is key to early detection. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you do a head-to-toe self examination of your skin monthly, and tell your doctor if you see any new, unusual or changing moles or skin growths.
Look for asymmetry, border irregularity, color, diameter and evolution. If one half doesn’t match the appearance of the other half, or if the pigmentation is not uniform, alert your doctor.
If the size of the mole is greater than the size of a pencil eraser or there is any change in the size, shape or surface, it should be evaluated.
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