May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. There are over 5 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Making it one of the most common yet most prevent cancers. As we move into the Spring and Summer months, it is important to remain vigilant of the harmful effects of Ultraviolet exposure and Skin Cancer, especially for those who live in warmer climates. Most UV radiation comes from the sun and man-made sources such as tanning beds. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers tend to be found on sun-exposed parts of the body, typically related to lifetime sun exposure. Melanoma is a more serious but less common type of skin cancer. It is also linked to sun exposure, but perhaps not as strongly.
Risk Factors (non-melanoma)
- Sun exposure
- Weakened or suppressed immune system
- Indoor tanning
- Fair skin
- Precancerous skin conditions
- Certain medications
Screening tools include
- Skin self-examination
- Part hair to lift it and examine the back of the neck and scalp in the mirror.
- Report findings from self-examination to a medical professional.
Signs & Symptoms
Basal cell carcinoma (2 or more features may be present)
- Reddish raised patch or area that is irritated that may crust or itch.
- A shiny pink, pearly white, red, or translucent bump.
- A pink growth with an elevated border and crusted central indention.
- An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and remains open for several weeks.
Squamous cell carcinoma: can often bleed, crust, and appear as:
- A persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders that may bleed easily.
- An open sore that persists for weeks.
- A raised growth with a rough surface and a central depression.
- A wart-like growth.
How can I avoid exposure to harmful UV rays in sunlight?
- If you are going to be outside during the hours of 10 am to 4 pm try to stay in the shade to limit UV exposure from the sun.
- Wear a hat to shield your head, neck, and face.
- Wear sunglasses that block UV rays to protect your eyes and skin around them.
- Protect your skin with clothing that covers your arms.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen to help protect skin that isn’t covered. (SPF 30 or higher)