Learn how to reduce your risk for this serious skin cancer
May is Melanoma Awareness month. What is melanoma? It is the most serious form of skin cancer. It is more aggressive than other types of skin cancer and is more likely to be fatal. But the good news is that it can usually be cured if it is caught early enough. That’s why it’s important to know the signs of melanoma and to check your skin regularly.
The American Academy of Dermatology and the Melanoma Research Alliance are using the month of May to promote melanoma awareness and raise funds for research. The message they are promoting is two-fold: skin cancer prevention tips and early detection methods.
Skin cancer prevention tips
For skin cancer prevention, the main thing to remember is to limit your exposure to the sun. The following practices are recommended:
- Get out of the sun whenever you can. Seek shade!
- Especially avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm.
- Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Make sure you re-apply it every two hours.
- Wear protective clothing. This includes hats with brims, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and sunglasses.
- Never go to tanning beds.
- Do your skin self-exams every month (see below).
- If your doctor believes you are at high risk, see a dermatologist to have your skin checked professionally.
If you follow these skin cancer prevention tips carefully, they will reduce your chance of developing any of the three main types of skin cancer, including melanoma. Share these tips with young children as well. Even sunburns from your youth can increase your chance of getting skin cancer as an adult.
Monthly skin self-exams
Even if you follow the skin cancer prevention methods, it is possible for melanomas to develop. For the most part, melanoma is visible to the naked eye. This is why monthly skin self-examinations are effective and potentially life-saving. How do you know if you have a melanoma? They usually appear as growths on the skin or unusual moles. To do the self-exam, use the ABCDE rule. Look for moles or growths that are:
B = irregular border
C = change in color
D = diameter larger than the size of a pencil eraser or have
E = evolved in size or thickness
The American Academy of Dermatologists wants people to get comfortable doing skin self-exams every month. The exam is fairly simple to do except for the parts of your body that are hard to see, such as your scalp and your back. Use these tips for doing a thorough exam.
To further promote melanoma awareness and diagnosis, the American Academy of Dermatology also offers free professional exams through their SPOTme® Skin Cancer Screening. This is a searchable database that shows when the next free screening is happening in your area.
We hope this article has raised your awareness of melanoma and encouraged you to start taking prevention tips and self-exams seriously. And remember, if you notice any of the ABCDE signs on your body, contact a doctor as soon as possible. Caught in the early stages, many melanomas are treatable. Why not start your monthly self-exams now?
The American College for Medical Careers in Orlando, Florida wants to help raise awareness about skin cancers during Melanoma Awareness month. Our school offers medical career training for adults wishing to become a sonographer, medical assistant, medical billing and coding specialist, and more. Contact us for more info!