Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Most skin cancers are caused by unprotected exposure to excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation, primarily from the sun. Many skin cancers could be prevented by protecting your skin from the sun's rays and avoiding indoor tanning. When thinking of healthy lifestyle choices, don't overlook the importance of protecting your skin.
Sun safety is important all through the year, not just in the summertime. Most skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, and the negative effects of UV radiation build up over a person's lifetime. In fact, UV radiation exposure can occur while driving in a car or sitting by a window. UV radiation is even present on cloudy days, when the sun doesn't seem to be out.
We cannot completely avoid the sun, but we can be aware of its risks and protect our skin. Many skin cancers could be prevented by following simple steps.
The American Cancer Society suggests several smart ways to reduce the harmful effects of sun exposure, protect your eyes and skin every day. First, try to avoid being directly exposed to the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are the most intense. If you'll be outside during this time, look for places with ample shade.
When outside, it's a smart idea to wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to block UV rays. To further protect your skin, dress in long sleeves and long pants or skirts, when you can. During summer months when this is not feasible, it's smart to keep an umbrella in your car to help protect your skin from the sun while you enjoy being outdoors.
Another way to protect uncovered skin is to use a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB radiation) that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. The key is to wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB radiation.
Concerned about skin cancer?
Dr. Mamdouh Mijalli, McLeod General Surgery Dillon, identifies the ways to spot skin cancer. "The sooner you find skin cancer," said Dr. Mijalli, "the higher the chance of successful treatment."
Each month, it's important to check your skin using these step-by-step instructions:
☑ Check your face, scalp, ears, neck, chest, and belly.
☑ Check your armpits, both sides of your arms, the tops and bottoms of your hands, and in between your fingers and fingernails.
☑ Check your upper and lower back, the front and back of your legs, calves, and the tops and bottoms of your feet.
You are looking for any change in your skin – something new or something that's been there, but has changed. It might help you a little to know about the types of skin cancer and how they might look.
"Look for new growths, spots, bumps, patches, or sores that do not heal after 2 to 3 months," said Dr. Mijalli. "Cancerous cells can come in a variety of forms. They may look like flat, firm, pale areas or small, raised, pink or red, translucent, shiny, waxy areas that may bleed after a minor injury. They may also look like growing lumps, often with a rough, scaly, or crusted surface. Flat, reddish patches in the skin that grow slowly is also something to look for when examining the skin."
"Another more serious type of skin cancer, called Melanoma, looks a lot like a common mole but with some differences, " said Dr. Mijalli. The American Cancer Society suggests using the ABCD rule as an easy guide to help when looking at a spot on the skin. Be on the lookout, and tell your doctor about any spots that match the following description:
A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue.
D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger.
Other important signs of melanoma include changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole or the appearance of a new spot. Some melanomas do not fit the ABCD rule described above, so it's very important for you to notice changes in skin markings or new spots on your skin.
Be sure to show your doctor any area that concerns you.
For more information about how the American Cancer Society can help you, your family, and your co-workers stay well by protecting yourselves from skin cancer, contact us at 1-800-227-2345, or visit cancer.org/sunsafety. We're here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with information and support. We want to help you stay well.
For additional information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mamdouh Mijalli, please call (843) 841-3846. McLeod General Surgery Dillon is located at 705 N. 8th Avenue, Suite 2B.