Skin Cancer – What You Need to Know

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.? While it is often diagnosed, there is a lot you can do to help protect yourself and your family from sun damage that can lead to skin cancer.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired damage to skin cells, most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds, triggers cell changes or defects that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant (cancerous) tumors.

An Ounce of Prevention

The old adage “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure” surely applies to skin cancer. These simple tips can help prevent future difficulties from sun damage. Make sure to share them with your friends and family.

  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Do not burn.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Apply one ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. The section that follows will help you learn what to look for.
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

Check Yourself Monthly and Know the Warning Signs

A monthly head-to-toe self-exam can help you identify changes in your skin early, when a potential problem can be treated. Skin cancer is also the easiest cancer to cure, if diagnosed and treated early. Skin cancer has many different appearances, so it is important to know the early warning signs. During your monthly self-exam, look for:

  • A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored.
  • 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 6mm or 1/4", the size of a pencil eraser
    • Appears after age 21
  • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode or bleed.
  • An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.

Reference: The Skin Cancer Foundation

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