As many people are spending more time outside to enjoy the warm weather, it’s important to be mindful of harmful radiation that can cause skin cancer.
What is skin cancer?
In the United States, more than one million people are diagnosed with a form of skin cancer each year. Skin cancer generally takes place when abnormal cells multiply in the outer layer of skin (epidermis) or when abnormal cells from the epidermis invade the inner layer of skin (dermis). There are two major categories: non-melanoma skin cancers and melanoma. Melanoma is fast-spreading and the most severe of skin cancers.
Melanoma mainly develops in sun exposed areas, including the scalp, face, neck, arms, hands, lips and ears, but it can form in other areas, too.
Most skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) light emitted naturally by the sun’s powerful rays and from tanning beds and sunlamps. Other causes include exposure to toxic substances such as arsenic.
Although symptoms vary depending on the type of skin cancer, look for these warning signs:
- New moles.
- Moles that increases in size.
- An outline of a mole that becomes notched.
- A spot that changes color from brown to black or is varied.
- A spot that becomes raised or develops a lump within it.
If you notice any changes to your skin, be sure to inform your doctor immediately.
Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Make sure to protect yourself with the following suggestions:
- Stay indoors or in areas with shade during the sun’s peak hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This time frame is when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Use broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher when outdoors. Make sure to reapply every two hours or after swimming.
- Cover your skin with loose clothing, sunglasses and a hat. In addition to skin cancer, UV radiation can cause severe damage to your eyes.
- Avoid indoor tanning and exposure to harmful substances and chemicals.
- Pay attention to your body and monitor any changes in your skin. Visit your physician for an annual skin exam.
If found early, melanoma can be treated effectively. Most non-melanoma cancers can be cured if detected and treated early.