May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and to celebrate, I paid a visit to my dermatologist. I am a fair-skinned redhead, and skin cancer runs in my family. Therefore, sunscreen is a close friend of mine, and since I exhibit multiple skin cancer risk factors, experts recommend that I visit my dermatologist every year.
It’s been almost two years since my last visit, when my dermatologist removed a mole on my arm, just in case. It is always hard to find time to make those visits, but I figured I would celebrate Skin Cancer Awareness Month the right way, by getting myself checked out.
According to the American Cancer Society, each year about 2 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Although the survival rates for these types of skin cancers are very high, damage can still be done. As for malignant melanoma, the most dangerous of skin cancers, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 76,250 new cases in 2012, and 9,180 deaths.
These are scary stats, but the great news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, and one of the most treatable, when it is caught early. Skin cancer occurs when mutations form in the DNA of skin cells, causing them to grow out of control. Usually, the damage results from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes from the sun and artificial rays (tanning beds, sunlamps).
Summer is right around the corner, which means you’re going to be spending more and more time outdoors. There is no need to hide in a corner inside whenever the sun is out. Take the proper precautions and you can still have fun in the sun.
Though your risk factor for skin cancer may be higher if you’re a fair-haired, fair-skinned person like me, skin cancer can happen to anyone. Here are some tips to protect your skin this summer:
• Stay in the shade. This is the best way to enjoy the great outdoors without getting burned.
• Wear protective clothing/hats. When you do spend time in the sun, wear protective clothing and hats to prevent sunburns.
• Wear sunscreen. Always wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to protect exposed skin. Reapply every two hours and don’t forget to get your lips, ears and hairline.
• Skip the tanning salons all together. If you really want to look tan, try self-tanners or spray tans instead.
• Protect your eyes with sunglasses. More than just a fashion statement, sunglasses can protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays. See how to choose the right pair.
• Check your moles. While this isn’t necessarily a way to prevent skin cancer, observing your skin and taking stock of your moles is a great way to detect skin cancer early. If you see anything suspicious, consult your dermatologist. See the specific symptoms to look out for.
As for my visit to the dermatologist this week? All clear! I may not ever have a tan, but wearing sunscreen daily and lounging under an umbrella all these years has certainly paid off. I look forward to visiting my dermatologist again next May. Join me in celebrating Skin Cancer Awareness Month the right way and protect your skin!