Written By Danielle Gymorie Cert. Personal Trainer Prescription Fitness
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. The number of skin cancer cases has been increasing over the past few decades. In fact, there are more skin cancer diagnoses each year than all other cancers combined.
On the bright side, 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. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet rays which mostly comes from the sun, but some may come from other sources such as tanning beds and sun lamps. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone practice monthly self-exams of their skin to find any new or changing lesions that could be cancerous or precancerous.
For a successful self-exam, you obviously need to know what you’re looking for. Generally, take note of any new moles or growths, and any existing growths that start to grow or change significantly in any way. Skin growths that increase in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored are a few to look for. A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that changes color, increases in size or thickness, changes in texture, is irregular in outline, is bigger than 6 mm or 1/4” (the size of a pencil eraser), or appears after the age of 21 are some other signs. Lesions that change, itch, bleed or don’t heal are a few more. Do not ignore suspicious spots simply because they do not hurt.
Protection can stop it too. About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation has recommended using sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher as one important part of protection. Sunscreen alone isn’t always enough though. Some other forms of protection include seeking shade (especially between 10 AM and 4 PM), do not burn, avoid tanning and UV tanning booths, cover up, reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating, keep newborns out of the sun, examine your skin, and see your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
Skin cancers can be painless, but dangerous at the same time. If you notice one or more of the warning signs, see a doctor right away, preferably one that specializes in diseases of the skin. Self-exams are the best way to ensure that you don’t become a statistic in the battle against skin cancer.