The ABCs of Skin Cancer: What to look out for and How to Prevent it
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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Summary

With summer around the corner, it's important to protect your skin and know your risk factors for skin cancer.
protect your skin

With sunnier weather on the way, it's important to think about sun protection and the risks of sun exposure to your skin. This is a practical guide on what to look at for and how to protect your skin from sun damage as the weather starts to get warmer and sunnier.

Prevention:

Keeping an eye out for changes in your skin is essential to catching and treating skin cancer early, but the first thing you want to do is prevent it from even happening. Skin cancer is the most common cause of cancer in the United States (Guy et al., 2015). Wearing sunscreen every day will prevent and protect you from skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen that protect against UVA and UVB radiation (the bottle will say this). They also emphasize daily use of at least 30 SPF on all sun-exposed areas in conjunction with other sun-safe practices such as limiting exposure, finding shade, and wearing things like hats and sun glasses (Lebwohl, 2015).

Now that you are protecting your skin, get to know your own risk factors for skin cancers. Risk factors include (CDC, 2017):

·         A lighter natural skin color.

·         Family history of skin cancer.

·         A personal history of skin cancer.

·         Exposure to the sun through work and play.

·         A history of sunburns, especially early in life.

·         A history of indoor tanning.

·         Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.

·         Blue or green eyes.

·         Blond or red hair.

·         Certain types and a large number of moles.

Checking yourself for new moles or changes in your skin, including lesions that won’t heal or bleed often, is important to your skin health. Establishing a relationship with a dermatologist and getting yearly skin checks is also an important part of your skin health and risk reduction. Look for a dermatologist who utilizes a dermatoscope (a magnifying glass) to look at your skin; this will ensure that they are taking the proper time and precautions.

 

Use “ABCDEs of Melanoma” and keep an eye on any moles that may develop:

A for Asymmetry. If you drawn a line through the middle of a mole, the halves should more or less match in size, if this is not the case it may be melanoma.

B for Border. The edges of early melanoma will be uneven, crusty, or notched.

C for Color. A normal, healthy mole will have uniform color throughout. A variety of colors, especially white and/or blue, is a sign of melanoma.

D for Diameter. Melanomas are usually larger. The size of a pencil eraser is a good cut off for size.

E for Evolving. When a mole changes in size, shape, or color, begins to bleed or scab, this is abnormal.

It's important to keep your risk factors in mind. Prevention is key and when possible, protect your skin from these damaging UVA/UVB rays!

Erin Johnson is a licensed naturopathic physician practicing at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, WA. She believes that health involves a holistic examination of the patient that takes into account the goals and priorities of each individual. Her clinical interests include women’s health, pediatrics, family medicine, and dermatology.

 References: 

“ABCDEs of Melanoma.” Melanoma Research Foundation, 28 July 2017, www.melanoma.org/understand-melanoma/diagnosing-melanoma/detection-screening/abcdes-melanoma.

Guy GP, Thomas CC, Thompson T, Watson M, Massetti GM, Richardson LC. “Vital signs: Melanoma incidence and mortality trends and projections—United States, 1982–2030.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(21):591-596.

Lebwohl, MG. “AAD statement on the safety of sunscreen.” American Academy of Dermatology, 22 Oct. 2015, https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/aad-statement-on-the-safety-of-sunscreen.

“Skin Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Apr. 2017, www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/risk_factors.html