Sun Safety Awareness
Dr. Mamdouh Mijalli, McLeod General Surgery Dillon
Skin cancer accounts for at least half of all cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. This year, approximately 76,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma, and this accounts for only 5% of all skin cancer cases.
There are two main types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. The most common types of non-melanoma are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which make up about 8 out of 10 and 2 out of 10 skin cancers, respectively.
Melanoma is far less common, but much more dangerous than non-melanoma skin cancer. Basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers are most often found in areas that are exposed to a lot of sun, such as the head, neck, and arms, but they also can occur elsewhere. Look for new growths, spots, bumps, patches, or sores that do not heal after 2 to 3 months.
Risk factors may vary among the different types of skin cancer. However, there are some general risk factors for all types of skin cancers, including sun sensitivity (fair skin, freckles, light hair, sunburn easily); a history of excessive sun exposure, (including sunburns); use of tanning beds; diseases that suppress the immune system; and a past history of skin cancer.
Skin cancer develops as a result of prolonged ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure from the sun. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate your exposure to UV radiation, there are preventive measures that you can take to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Seek shade when possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.
- Wear dark clothing with tightly woven fabric.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- Apply sunscreen about 20 or 30 minutes before you go outside, and reapply at least every 2 hours.
- Wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB light and have at least 99% UV absorption.
- Avoid other sources of UV light, such as tanning beds, tanning lamps, and sun lamps.
- Identify abnormal moles and have them removed.
- You can often find skin cancer early, when it is smaller and easier to treat.
- Know your skin. Check your skin about once a month, and learn the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, or any other marks so that you will notice any changes if they occur. Make sure you examine your skin in a well-lit room, preferably using a full-length mirror. Leave nothing out; examine your palms and soles, scalp, ears, nails, and your back.
- Know what to look for. Look for any new growths, or any existing marks that are changing in shape, feel, or color. Also look for sores that do not heal within 3 months.
To detect melanoma, follow the ABCD rule as follows.
- Asymmetry. Half the mole doesn't match the other half.
- Border irregularity. The edges of the mole are irregular, ragged, blurred, or notched.Color. The mole is not the same color throughout and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue. Diameter. The mole is larger than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch) or is growing larger.
- Note that not all melanomas follow this pattern, so you must watch for changes in markings or new spots on the skin.
- Most skin cancers are curable, if detected and treated early.
A cancerous mole requires immediate surgical removal to prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. The extent of the surgical procedure, most often done in a doctor's office, depends largely upon factors such as the size, location, and depth of the mole.
Remember to follow these guidelines throughout the year, not just during the summer months. Over time, throughout your daily activities—driving in your car, sitting by your office window, mowing the lawn—your exposure to ultraviolet radiation is accumulating, which can potentially lead to skin cancer.
If you see any changes in your skin, or any new markings, that cause concern, please contact your doctor immediately.
Mamdouh Mijalli, M.D., F.A.C.S, received his medical degree from Cairo University in Egypt, graduating Excellent with Honors. He also received his Master Degree in Surgery from Cairo University. Dr. Mijalli completed a General Surgery Residency at Cairo University Hospital, and a Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellowship at Yale-New Haven Hospital, in New Haven, Connecticut. Dr. Mijalli also completed a General Surgery Residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and served as Chief General Surgery Resident at Maine Medical Center, in Portland, Maine. Dr. Mijalli is Board Certified in General Surgery and cares for patients at McLeod General Surgery Dillon. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call (843) 841-3846.