Thursday, May 15, 2014

May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

Skin cancer is a prevalent problem in the United States – in fact, it is the most common form of cancer in the country. Fortunately, there are a number of actions people can take to protect themselves from the ultraviolet rays that are often at the root of skin cancers, including:

  • stay in the shade during the midday, when UV rays are most hazardous 
  • wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher that protects against UVA and UVB rays 
  • wear clothing that covers arms and legs
  • avoid indoor tanning 

Don’t forget to protect your skin, even during the winter and on overcast days.

Know Your Risk
Certain characteristics can increase an individual’s risk for skin cancer. These risk factors include having fair skin, a family or personal history of skin cancer, history of sunburns and/or indoor tanning, having skin that burns, freckles or reddens easily, having blue or green eyes or blond or red hair and having certain types and a large number of moles. Luckily, anyone can perform a self head-to-toe examination to keep track of skin changes that could indicate cancer. It’s easy to do - just note the appearance of spots on your body, paying close attention for asymmetry, jagged or uneven borders, uneven color and diameter larger than a pea. If you notice anything different, such as a new growth, a sore that won’t heal or a change in a mole, consult your physician or dermatologist. 

For individuals at increased risk of developing skin cancer, an annual skin exam might help put their minds at ease. For a patient who has never had an atypical mole or very few atypical moles, the examination is quite brief – about 10 minutes. Those with more suspicious spots or growths may require longer appointments. In some cases, your dermatologist might biopsy, or remove a sample of skin, from a suspicious area for further testing. If you’ve noticed any specific changes or areas of concern during your self exams, don’t be shy – point them out to your doctor and ask questions.

GBMC periodically hosts $15 skin cancer screenings. The next skin cancer screening is taking place in GBMC’s Radiation Oncology department on June 10. Click here for details. To schedule an appointment, call 443-849-3080 or register online

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