May was Melanoma Awareness Month and summer is about to be in full swing. That means warmer weather, brighter skies, and spending a lot more time outside. But don’t go soaking up the sun just yet! UV radiation from the sun drastically increases your chances of skin cancer, the most dangerous form being melanoma.
According to the latest data from the CDC, 21 out every 100,000 people in Indiana have melanoma of the skin, with 1,556 cases reported in 2016. Fortunately, most cases of melanoma can be prevented with sunscreen, protective clothing, and by avoiding prolonged exposure to UV rays. When it comes to melanoma prevention, a little caution goes a long way.
Keep reading to learn:
- Tips for melanoma prevention
- Symptoms of melanoma
Being cautious about melanoma doesn’t mean hiding inside all summer. By being knowledgeable and prepared, you’ll be ready for whatever summer throws at you.
Tips for Melanoma Prevention
According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with more than 9,000 people dying of melanoma each year. Anyone can develop skin cancer, but people with light skin are at a much higher risk. With cases of melanoma doubling between 1982 and 2011 and the risk of death increasing with age, knowing how to prevent melanoma is essential to protect your health.
Avoid the Sun When Its Rays are Strongest
Over 90% of melanoma cases in the U.S. are the result of exposure to UV radiation. That’s why it’s so important to know when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, which is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in North America. Avoiding the sun during these times is one of the best ways to avoid skin damage from the sun’s UV radiation.
You should also keep in mind that sunburns aren’t necessary to develop melanoma. Your skin absorbs UV rays all year long, including when it’s cold or cloudy. Skin cancer can develop from accumulated sun exposure, which is why it’s important to avoid direct sunlight even during winter or when it’s overcast.
Avoid Artificial UV Light
Direct exposure to the sun isn’t the only way to damage your skin with UV radiation. Tanning beds and tanning lamps can also cause UV damage, greatly increasing your chance of developing melanoma. In fact, more people are exposed to intense UV rays by artificial sources than by the sun with an estimated 6,200 melanoma cases caused by indoor tanning every year. With that in mind, it may be a good idea to skip the tanning bed altogether.
Wear Protective Clothing
You want to protect as much of your skin as possible from UV radiation when going outside. As we’ve mentioned before, your face, arms, back, and legs are at the highest risk for developing melanoma. Choosing the right clothing is one of the best ways to protect yourself.
Ideal clothing would be:
- Long sleeves and pants
- Dark colors
- Tightly woven
Wearing a hat is also advised. Baseball caps and visors will do, but a wide-brimmed hat will provide you with the most protection.
Always Wear Your Sunscreen
You should wear sunscreen every day since UV rays pose a year-round threat. This even includes cloudy days and winter. Go with a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. Use it like you would if you were at the beach, and follow the directions for application frequency.
Know Your Body
Knowing where growths you already have are located will help you spot new ones. Use mirrors to check your body for freckles, moles, and birthmarks. Checking the front of your body should be easy, but be thorough. Check the undersides of your hands and arms along with your chest and trunk. Make sure to investigate the backs of your legs and feet, as well as between your toes. Use a mirror to check your scalp, neck, and face.
Symptoms of Melanoma
Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body. However, it’s most likely to develop in places that receive the most exposure to sunlight such as your face, arms, back, and legs. Hidden melanomas are more common in people with darker skin and can develop under your fingernails, on your palms, and on the soles of your feet.
- Changes in moles you already have
- New growths on your skin that are pigmented or look unusual
Keep in mind that melanomas don’t always develop from moles and that new moles can develop until your 40s. They’re usually uniform in color and are round or oval-shaped. To spot melanomas and other types of skin cancer, think of the letters ABCDE.
- A = growths with asymmetrical shapes.
- B = growths with irregular borders.
- C = growths that have irregular coloring or multiple colors.
- D = growths that are larger than ¼ inch (around 6 mm) in diameter.
- E = growths that evolve over time in size, shape, color, or begin to bleed or itch.
Knowing and checking for these signs of melanoma will help ensure that skin cancer doesn’t take you by surprise.
Protecting yourself and your family from melanoma should be at the top of your to-do list this summer. While skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, it’s also one of the easiest to prevent. You can do this by avoiding artificial UV rays and the sun when it’s rays are strongest, as well as wearing protective clothing and sunscreen.
It also helps to know the warning signs of melanoma, especially as you get older. Become familiar with moles and other skin growths that you already have so you’ll be able to spot new ones if they develop. Use the ABCDE method to spot anything out of the ordinary.
Being cautious about skin cancer shouldn’t mean staying inside all summer. By following our tips on melanoma prevention and how to spot abnormal growths, you’ll be prepared to get the most out of many summers to come!
At Evansville Surgical Associates, we are dedicated to serving our patients with the most state-of-the-art advanced surgical procedures in the Tri-State region. Established in 1969, Evansville Surgical Associates celebrates over 50 years of providing leading-edge comprehensive and compassionate surgical care. Learn more about our physicians and our practice by visiting our website, or by calling us at 812.424.8231 or 800.264.8231.