Be Sun Safe and Check Yourself for Spots

in Health & Wellness

Almost 5 million people are treated annually for skin cancer in the U.S. On “Melanoma Monday,” the American Academy of Dermatology is making a special effort to increase awareness about skin cancer.

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Almost 5 million people are treated annually for skin cancer in the U.S. On “Melanoma Monday,” the American Academy of Dermatology is making a special effort to increase awareness about skin cancer.

Did you know that even simple measures can help decrease your chances of getting skin cancer and also protect your body against signs of sun damage such as wrinkles and age spots?

Just remember when you’re outdoors to stay in the shade, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt if possible. Add to that mix the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater to cut down on the chances of being diagnosed with skin cancer.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control is urging social media fans to show off their #SunSafeSelfie to raise awareness about the benefits of sun protection.

During this month’s Melanoma Awareness Month, the CDC suggests social media followers photograph themselves using sun protection; post it on social media with the tag of #SunSafeSelfie and most of all, practice what they post.

For its efforts, the American Academy of Dermatology promotes the mnemonic of “ABCDE” to help make the warning signs of melanoma – particularly possible malignant moles -- more memorable for people.

If you’re concerned about spots on your body, just think ABCDE:

A – Asymmetry. Is the mole asymmetrical? The AAD advises you consider an imaginary line drawn across the center of the mole, and if the two halves do not match, it is considered asymmetrical. If you discover a mole on your body and it is asymmetrical, it is important to seek medical assistance.

B – Border. Does the border, or edge, of your mole look uneven? If so, it is important to seek medical assistance.

C ­– Color. Is your mole all one color? If there are various colors or shades within the same mole, it could be a warning sign. If your mole is more than one color or shade, it is important to seek medical assistance.

D – Diameter. Get a good look at your mole. How big is it? Typically, melanomas have a diameter of about ¼-inch or more. The diameter is measured by looking at the length across the mole.

E – Evolving. Since you first noticed it, has your mole changed in its size, shape or color? Are there changes such as itching, bleeding or other liquids coming from the mole? These may be signs of a malignant mole, so it’s important to seek medical assistance.

Most melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, light. UV rays can impact a body even on cloudy days and are able to reflect off of water, cement, sand, and snow. It’s important to also protect your eyes from UV rays by wearing sunglasses. That may reduce your risk of contracting cataracts.

As with any type of cancer, treatments are often more successful when early detection occurs. When melanoma is at a later stage and has spread to other parts of the body, treatment options are limited.

A skin cancer self-examination is an important part of your self-care. Take note of all the spots on your body, including freckles, moles and age spots. Skin cancer can develop anywhere on your skin – including the soles of your feet, your ears, and your scalp. Examine your body using a full-size mirror. Look at your front and rear. Bend your elbows and check your forearms, back of your upper arms and palms.

When looking at your feet, check your soles and the spaces between your toes. Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part your hair and lift your hair if it’s covering any skin or scalp. Using a hand mirror, check your back and buttocks, as well as the back of your knees and calf area.

Using a simple image of a body outline, make note of where your spots are on your body. Try to measure the spot and note the color. If you’ve seen the mole or mark before, take note if it’s changed in size.

Most importantly, if you’re concerned or uncertain, seek medical attention. For more information, see spotskincancer.org.

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Author: John Baeke, MD, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon

Dr. Baeke is a plastic surgeon with Lompoc Health. He has been involved as an FDA clinical investigator on six breast implant studies and has participated in medical mission work.

Learn more about Dr. Baeke.

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