Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by University Medical Center.
Summer is filled with outdoor activities with the family – pool parties, beach vacations, a day at the park, sports and much more! While some sun exposure is great for helping the skin produce Vitamin D, too much exposure to UV rays can have harmful effects on your skin – including the risk of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and more than 3 million Americans will be diagnosed with it this year. The good news is that skin cancer can be easily detected and is highly curable if caught early! Here are some tips for preventing and spotting skin cancer.
- Seek the shade – Try to stay inside or in the shade when the sun’s rays are the strongest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear clothes to cover up – Cover up as much skin as possible when heading outdoors, even if it means a light long-sleeved shirt and pants. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses can protect your face and eyes.
- Use SPF 30 or higher sunscreen – Liberally apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF no less than 15 minutes before heading outside. Reapply sunscreen frequently, at least every two hours while you’re outside and even more often if you’re swimming or sweating. A good amount to use is about 1 ounce (2 tablespoons).
- Do not burn – One or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood also are a risk factor.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds – A tan is the body’s response to injury from UV rays. A base tan does little to protect you from future damage to your skin caused by UV exposure. In fact, people who indoor tan are more likely to report getting sunburned.
- Check your skin regularly – Take note of all the spots on your body (moles, freckles, age spots, etc.) on a monthly basis. You could even make this a fun monthly routine for you and your partner to bare all and check each other’s skin! Continue yearly skin exams with your physician in addition to self-exams.
Spotting Skin Cancer
So what are we looking for when examining the skin? We have an easy acronym to remember – here are the ABCDE’s of melanoma:
- A – Asymmetry: One half does not match the other half
- B – Border: The edges of the mole are ragged or irregular.
- C – Color: The mole varies in color from one area to another. It may be shades of tan, brown, black, red or other colors. It may also appear to have lost color in some areas.
- D – Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- E – Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that is changing in size, shape or color.
Other signs and symptoms that may be skin cancer include:
- A mole or skin mark that itches or is sore.
- A mole or skin mark that oozes, bleeds, or becomes crusty.
- A mole or skin mark that looks different from your other moles or skin marks.
- A sore that doesn’t heal.
- A mole or sore becomes red or swells at its edges or beyond.
If you or your loved ones are concerned about an abnormal mole or lesion and want to learn more about skin cancer prevention, you are welcome to join us for a FREE Skin Cancer Screening & Prevention Event at UMC New Orleans on Wednesday, August 3 from 5 – 8 p.m. Screenings are open to the public and you do not need to be a patient of UMC New Orleans to attend.
To learn more, visit UMCNO.ORG/SkinCancerScreening.
About Dr. Erin Boh and Dr. Brian Lee
Erin Boh MD PhD, Clinical Professor of Dermatology, is Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA. She received her PhD in Biochemistry from Tulane University School of Medicine and her medical degree from Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. Boh completed an internship in Internal Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine and her residency in Dermatology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and served as chief resident. She has served on numerous committees of the AAD, including the Editorial Board of the JAAD.
Brian Lee, MD, is Acting Chairman and Residency Program Director at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Department of Dermatology. He is also the Chief for Dermatology Service at VA New Orleans. He received his medical degree from LSU School of Medicine. His clinical interests include: skin cancer surgery, surgical dermatology, general dermatology, photorejuvenation and laser treatment of: tattoos, birth marks and hair removal.