• Laurel Contributor

Skin Cancer Awareness Month

by Rachael Feibelman

A handful of common sense steps can make all the difference in the fight against skin cancer.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, as designated by the American Academy of Dermatology. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S, and it is estimated that around one in five Americans will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime.

Thankfully, skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early. Therefore, it is essential to know about risk factors and preventive strategies.

Many patients that visit our dermatology office share a common story. They reminisce back to when they used to apply baby oil to soak up the summer sun, not knowing the importance of sun protection. This intermittent sun exposure during one’s lifetime is associated with an increased risk of all types of skin cancer.

The chance of developing a melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer, almost doubles with a history of just one blistering sunburn and is also increased in those that use tanning beds. Other skin cancer risk factors include those with skin types that burn easily; blonde or red hair; a history of excessive sun exposure; and a history of skin cancer.

The most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers is decreasing exposure to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sun rays are the strongest between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. During these times of peak UV intensity, seek shade and wear protective clothing.

Clothing companies now make UPF-rated clothing, which is protective against both UVA and UVB light. Like the SPF rating for sunscreen, the higher the UPF rating number, the better the sun protection that item of clothing will provide.

Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours when outdoors, or after swimming or sweating, and remember to apply even on cloudy days.

Tanning beds should be avoided, and instead, consider the use of self-tanning products if looking to achieve a tan appearance.

Make sure you’re familiar with your skin and perform regular skin self-checks. If, when performing a self-skin check, you notice a new or suspicious spot, a sore that doesn’t heal, or if you have an existing mole or skin lesion that begins to change, itch or bleed, then make an appointment to see your local dermatologist.

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