Clinical Contributors to this story:
Jessica Yao, M.D.
Interim Chief Medical Officer
Millions of people around the world get skin cancer every year. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Treatment has improved greatly, yet skin cancer can still be deadly. Of all types of skin cancer, melanoma causes the most deaths because of its tendency to spread to other parts of the body. Prevention is the best way to protect yourself and early detection is important for treating skin cancer successfully.
Reduce your risk of skin cancer by adding these 5 practices into your health care and self-care routines. Protect yourself now, and your future self will thank you.
#1: Stay Shady
Ultraviolet (UV) rays (invisible radiation from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps) are the #1 cause of skin cancer. Here in Texas and across the continental United States, UV rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To lower your risk of getting skin cancer, protect your skin from UV rays from the sun by staying indoors or in the shade. And stay clear of artificial sources of UV exposure, like tanning beds and sunlamps.
#2: Cover Up & Lather Up
- When you’re outdoors, wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses.
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters out both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF 30 or higher to all exposed areas of your skin. (What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays? Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength. It is associated with skin aging. Ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength. It is associated with skin burning.)
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
(Mom Hack! Use a makeup sponge or beauty blender to apply sunscreen to your child’s face and ears.)
Step 3: Know your ABCDEs
Examine your skin from head to toe regularly to look for any changes or abnormalities. Pay close attention to moles, freckles, or any new spots or bumps. Know what to look for by remembering the A-B-C-D-Es which could indicate warning signs of melanoma.
- Asymmetry – One half is not like the other
- Border – Border is irregular or not well-defined.
- Color – Uneven color
- Diameter – Larger than a pea
- Evolution – Changes in size, shape, or color over time
Step 4: Spot an Ugly Duckling
Keep an eye out for an “Ugly Duckling.” Most moles on your body look alike, while melanoma can stand out like an ugly duckling in comparison. If you have a suspicious spot, compare it with those around it. Is it larger, smaller, lighter, darker?
Step 5: See your doctor
Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.
You know your body best. If something doesn’t look right, don’t ignore it. Make an appointment with your doctor right away. Skin cancer can be scary, but early detection and treatment save lives.
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