May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and in our last post we learned who is most affected by skin cancer and how to raise awareness. While the numbers may be intimidating, there are easy ways to prevent melanoma and to monitor your skin for any unusual growths.
Taking Steps to Prevent Melanoma
When outside, always try to stay in the shade. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which means that harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation is stronger too. If you are exposed to direct sunlight, avoid burning. Your risk for melanoma is doubled if you’ve had five or more sunburns throughout your life, and just one severe sunburn during childhood doubles the chance of developing it later in life. You should also avoid tanning and UV tanning booths, as those practices are far more likely to induce this dangerous skin cancer.
Your best bet against UV radiation is to cover up with clothing. Keeping your skin protected under a dense layer of fabric from head to toe is the strongest defense. Choose long sleeve shirts and pants whenever possible, as well as a hat and sunglasses. For those times you can’t or don’t want all the extra material, be sure to always use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. For extended outdoor activity, use one that’s SPF 30 or higher and water-resistant, and reapply every two hours.
Screening for Skin Cancer
Despite the daunting stats, when caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable and almost always curable. If left untreated, however, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body where it may become difficult to address or even be fatal. While it is not the most common form of skin cancer, melanoma causes the most deaths.
It’s recommended to inspect your skin from head to toe every month, in addition to getting a yearly physical exam by a professional. However, checking your skin for cancerous or precancerous growths is more than just a quick look in the shower or in front of a mirror. It’s important to carefully look over every inch of your body, including places you probably don’t think about, like your scalp, under your fingernails, and between your toes. Using two mirrors is essential and it’s always better to have a partner who can help you analyze the spots that are hard to see. If you do notice a change in an existing mole or discover a new development that looks questionable, see your physician or dermatologist right away.
Help the Cause
If you’d like to contribute to the fight against skin cancer, you can connect with the Skin Cancer Foundation and make a donation to help educate, prevent, and treat this all-too-common condition. You can also give to the American Academy of Dermatology in their ongoing research and free cancer screenings with the SPOTme Skin Cancer Screening Program.
Of course, you can always count on the dedicated team at R Medical Spa at Renaissance Plastic Surgery to help you with any questions or concerns you may have about your skin. Please give us a call at 636.896.0600 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation today.