Skin Cancer Awareness Month
May 27, 2021
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America. That is why it is so important to take precautions regarding sun exposure, and spread awareness to others about the dangers that the sun can pose.
Skin cancer misconceptions:
Certain skin colors can’t get skin cancer
Simply put, if you have skin you are at risk of skin cancer, no matter the color. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Ultraviolet A rays can damage all skin types which leads to skin cancer. For darker skin tones, it may be harder to notice the signs of skin cancer when they appear. That’s why everyone needs to wear sunscreen and get checked by a dermatologist.
You have to get a sunburn to damage your skin
Although it may seem like a healthy glow, tan skin is a sign of sun damage. UV radiation from the sun genetically damages your skin’s top layer, and your skin reacts by trying to lessen future damage by producing melanin, thus creating a tan. However, once your skin does this, it means your skin is damaged and will result in signs of aging over time. Even for those with darker skin tones, a tan still causes damage.
Sun exposure through windows doesn’t increase the risk
Even indoors, it is still a good idea to put on sunscreen daily to prevent skin damage from sun exposure. This is because Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays can still penetrate through your windows unless you get a special window film installed.
Early detection and what to look for
The Skin Cancer Foundation states that 99% of skin cancers are curable if they are detected early. This means that regular self-exams are the best way to stop skin cancer in its tracks before it becomes very dangerous.
Self-exams for skin cancer means that you examine yourself top-to-bottom once a month to see if anything changes or seems suspicious. Things to look out for include:
- New growth.
- A mole that has changed in color, texture, or size.
- A spot, scab, or open sore that hasn’t healed within three weeks.
If you see a spot that fits into one of those categories, it is best to see a doctor for an expert opinion.
Skin Cancer Prevention
The best way to guard yourself against skin cancer is to use sun protection. There are multiple types of sun protection, and it is best to use a variety of options since none provide perfect protection. Covering up with clothing to protect your skin is one method of protection, but, since some skin is still exposed, it should be used in combination with sunscreen. Staying in the shade is another option, but, again, this isn’t perfect.
Sunscreen should be an essential part of any routine. You should use sunscreen of at least 15 SPF when inside or SPF 30 or more when outdoors, and make sure to apply every 40 to 80 minutes for optimal protection.
Finding a Dermatologist
The final step to skin cancer prevention to consider this Skin Cancer Awareness month is to see a dermatologist. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends seeing a dermatologist for an annual full-body exam. To see what dermatologists are in your plan, check out our provider search platform here.