Skin Cancer Awareness Month
Over three million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, making it the most common type of cancer in the US. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, when those who have been affected by skin cancer are encouraged to share their stories and when people all across the US seek to educate and inform people about risks, warning signs, and prevention tips related to skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Treatment
There are three main types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The first two are less common, less severe, and more easily treatable. Melanoma makes up about 5% of skin cancer diagnosis but is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths. Both squamous and basal cell carcinoma occur closer to the surface of the skin and are less likely to invade other areas of the body, while melanoma often spreads quickly and is hard to control when left untreated.
If you suspect you have skin cancer or you have come across an area of your skin that has changed, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will do a physical exam and may order a biopsy of the area in question. If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you will proceed with skin cancer treatment under the direction and recommendations of your doctor, based on the type of skin cancer you have and the stage of the cancer. The most common skin cancer treatments include any one or a combination of the following: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, biologic therapy, and targeted therapy.
In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May, be sure to learn how to recognize the warning signs of skin cancer and how you can best prevent skin cancer to begin with.
Prevent Excessive Sun Exposure
Spending too much time in the sun is considered the most likely culprit for skin cancer. While sunscreen can help you avoid burning or getting too much exposure to UV rays, it is not the only line of defense against the sun and should not be the only thing you utilize to avoid skin cancer. In addition to using at least SPF 15 sunscreen every 2 hours (more if you swim or sweat a lot), you should also try to avoid the sun during the brightest parts of the day between 10 AM and 4 PM. If you are out in the sun, whether during that window or any other time of day, be sure to cover up with clothes, a hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses. You should do everything in your power to avoid getting a sunburn, as severe burns (especially for younger kids) have been linked to melanoma in adulthood. You should also avoid tanning beds and lying in direct sunlight.
Know the Warning Signs
Skin cancer awareness education is a key part of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Know the warning signs of skin cancer so that you can complete self-checks with confidence. Doctors recommend knowing the ABCDEs of skin cancer, which include Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolving. They also want people to know about the “Ugly Ducking” rule, which means that cancerous spots on skin generally don’t look like other spots on the skin—they are the “ugly duckling.”
After you’ve taken advantage of skin cancer awareness education and have learned the warning signs, it’s important to do monthly head-to-toe skin exams. If something on your skin changes, you’ll notice it right away and can have proper testing done to determine what’s going on. When performing a self-exam, be sure to take note of any skin growths, moles, birthmarks, or beauty marks that appear to be growing in size, changing colors, increasing in thickness, changing texture, irregular in shape, is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser, or appears after the age of 21. Additionally, pay attention to an open sore that does not heal within 3 weeks, itches, hurts, crusts, scabs, or bleeds. Any of these warning signs should alert you to schedule a doctor’s appointment to have the spot further checked out by a physician.
Skin cancer awareness is absolutely vital to preventing and treating skin cancer, so this May, during Skin Cancer Awareness Month, be sure to encourage those you love to read up on the best preventative measures and to learn all the warning signs of the most common cancer in America.