Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. These cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers genetic defects that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. DNA damage is most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds.
The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease. Melanoma kills an estimated 10,130 people in the US annually.
People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent. Worldwide, there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases due to smoking.
If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. While it is not the most common of the skin cancers, it causes the most deaths.
Most skin cancers can be found early with skin exams. Regular exams by your doctor and checking your own skin frequently can help find cancers early, when they are easier to treat.
Regular skin exams are especially important for people who are at higher risk of skin cancer, such as people with reduced immunity, people who have had skin cancer before, and people with a strong family history of skin cancer.
It’s important to check your own skin, preferably once a month. A skin self-exam is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You can use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see. A spouse or family member may be able to help you with these exams, especially for those hard-to-see areas like your back or scalp.
The first time you examine your skin, spend time carefully going over the entire surface. Learn the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks on your skin so that you’ll notice any changes next time.
The good news is that you can do a lot to protect yourself and your family from skin cancer, or catch it early so that it can be treated effectively. Seek shade, especially during midday hours; 10 am to 4 pm. Umbrellas, trees, or other shelters can provide relief from the sun. Wear sun protection gear like a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants or a long skirt for additional protection when possible. Wear sunscreen daily on all sun exposed areas, even if you do not plan on being outside for a prolonged period of time. Choosing the right sunscreen is important to ensure the right protection. Your sunscreen should contain Zinc with an SPF of 30 or higher. Remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Whether you have the most sensitive skin or the oiliest of skin, there are formulas for your skin type. Stop by Haley Dermatology Clear MedSpa today to find the right sunscreen for you and your family! All sunscreens are 20% off the entire month of May!