May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. At evolv Medical Aesthetics, we know that healthy skin not only keeps you feeling confident, but keeps your whole body healthy, too. That’s why we strive to make sure our patients are educated and informed about skin cancer and how to prevent it. As you get ready to spend your summer outdoors and active, here’s some information to keep in mind.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a type of cancerous activity where skin cells begin to reproduce out of control and develop a growth or lesion on the surface of the skin. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and is diagnosed more often than all other types of cancer combined. In fact, one in five people will develop skin cancer by age 70. The most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma, which causes death in a significant amount of people each year. The number of melanoma diagnoses is estimated to rise each year, but prevention is proven to be the most effective way of treating melanoma.
What causes melanoma?
Exposure to UV rays causes melanoma. When your skin is exposed to UV rays over time, it causes damage to the DNA of your cells. When this goes unrepaired, it causes them to mutate and grow unchecked. UV rays are more dangerous and pervasive than you might think, and it’s common to not realize the amount of exposure you get on a daily basis. Even on cloudy or snowy days, you’re being exposed to UV rays. For this reason, daily sunscreen use is one of the best ways to prevent melanoma and can reduce your risk by 50% or more.
Additionally, avoiding tanning beds at all costs can help to substantially lower your risk of melanoma. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people develop melanoma because of tanning beds than do people who develop lung cancer because of smoking. In fact, even one use of a tanning bed can increase your risk by as much as six times. If you already use tanning beds, you should seek out alternatives like spray tanning as soon as possible. In any case of UV exposure, having even a mild sunburn can increase your chances of developing melanoma. Multiple, severe sunburns can more than double your risk, so it’s important to avoid harmful UV exposure as much as possible.
What other types of skin cancer exist?
There are many different types of skin cancer, but melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma are three of the most common types. In almost all cases, they are caused by UV exposure and can be prevented by regular sunscreen use.
Why do I need to get screened?
A regularly-scheduled screening with a healthcare professional is one of the best ways to detect cancerous activity early and begin treatment. A screening means that a healthcare professional will examine every area of your skin, including your fingernails and scalp, for signs of cancerous activity. They may examine any moles or dark spots on your skin more closely and ask if you’ve noticed any changes in these areas so they can rule out any other factors. If your healthcare professional notices any cancerous activities, they can recommend a biopsy and treatment plan.
What should I look for?
As well as seeing a healthcare professional for a regular screening, you should be sure to examine your skin at home so that you’re familiar with any areas that may become problematic. Experts recommend that you follow the ABCDE’s of melanoma when you observe any moles or areas you believe may be cancerous:
Often, moles are symmetrical and rounded. If some kind of change in color or growth happens on one side of a mole but not the other, it can be a sign that it has become malignant. It can be helpful to imagine a line down the center and note whether each side looks similar or not.
Moles often have a defined, smooth border that separates it from the skin around it. If it has become blurry or uneven, it can be a sign that it has become malignant. An irregular border is often described as ‘scalloped’ or ‘notched’.
Moles are most commonly a single color— usually reddish, brown, or dark brown. If your mole seems to have more than one color, especially one that seems unnatural (like blue, bright red, or white), you should have it checked.
Most often, benign moles are smaller than malignant ones. If you notice that a mole has grown to a size larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser, you should see your physician. This does not necessarily mean it is cancerous if you naturally have large moles, however.
Benign moles will look the same over time. For this reason, you should always keep an eye on your moles for any change in the above factors. Additionally, any new symptom like bleeding, itching, or crusting should warrant an appointment with your physician. It’s important to keep in mind that moles are not necessarily a sign of skin cancer. Everyone has at least one mole on their body that more often remains healthy throughout their whole life. However, it’s important to be familiar with them so you can track any changes. If you have lots of moles, it doesn’t always mean you’re more prone to skin cancer but should simply be more proactive about seeing your physician for a regular screening.
Schedule a Consultation
Skin cancer is easily preventable and treatable with the right steps. To get more information about the risks of skin cancer and to find a protective sunscreen that works best with your skin and lifestyle, schedule a consultation with our skincare experts to get started. We invite you to call or fill out our online form.