The Month of May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. As we all know, the sun in Mississippi can be brutal over the spring and summer months. We all want to get outside and enjoy the nice weather while we can. But the ultra violet rays can be downright deadly if you are not careful. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with Melanoma being the most dangerous form of skin cancer. In this week’s blog, we will discuss Melanoma along other types of skin cancer and how to prepare yourself when going outside for long periods of time.
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Melanoma, on the other hand, is a form of skin cancer that arises when pigment-producing cells –known as melanocytes- mutate and become cancerous. Most pigment cells are found in the skin, but melanoma can also occur in the eyes (ocular melanoma) and other parts of the body, including, rarely, the intestines. The most common form of skin cancer is Basal cell carcinoma (BCC). According to skincancer.org, an estimated 4.3 million cases of BCC are diagnosed in the US each year. The second most common type of skin cancer is Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), with about 700,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year.
In today’s world of digital information, there is a wealth of myths that are dangerously untrue. We often find ourselves seeking unverified information from the internet, not healthcare providers. Some of the common myths about UV protection and skin cancer that are untrue include:
- A base tan protects your skin. This is simply not true. All tanning is skin damage and can potentially lead to skin cancer.
- In cloudy or winter weather you can skip sunscreen. False, and potentially dangerous. Clouds do prevent some sunlight from being seen but do not block harmful UV rays that can cause skin cancer. Sunscreen is a daily, year-round necessity.
- Car windows protect us from sun damage. Windshields do block some sunlight, but the side windows do not block any UV rays. The bottom line here is that glass will not protect you from the sun.
- 100 SPF sunscreen is twice as effective as 50 SPF sunscreen. 100 SPF is somewhat better than 50 SPF, but not enough to seek it out specifically. SPF 100 blocks roughly 99% of UV rays, while SPF 50 blocks roughly 98%. Furthermore, SPF 30 blocks roughly 97%.
If you are seeking any type of information about healthcare on the internet, please make sure you are using reputable sources to do your research. Examples would include a healthcare provider’s website, the CDC’s website, or a site like Medline Plus.
An increasingly common form of skin cancer, melanoma, can be deadly if not treated properly. When melanoma develops in your skin, it can look like a normal mole. This can make it difficult to know whether a mole is cancerous or harmless. Melanoma is often caused by exposure to the sun. If you often go out into the sunny weather without protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, you are at increased risk of developing melanoma. The use of tanning beds increases your risk of developing melanoma by over 75%. While there is no guarantee that you will never get melanoma, there are several steps you can take to protect your skin:
- Wear broad-spectrum, waterproof sunscreen
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours when you are outside
- Wear clothing that shields your skin from the sun
- Never use tanning beds
Unfortunately, even total avoidance of sun exposure cannot prevent melanoma. Although it most frequently develops on areas of your skin that are prone to sunburns, this kind of cancer an appear on any area of your body. It is crucial to know how to identify a cancerous mole in it’s early stages before it becomes more dangerous. The warning signs of melanoma can be detected by performing a simple self-exam. To easily remember the characteristics of potential melanoma, remember what is called the ‘ABCDEs’.
- A: If a mole looks different on one side than another, it may be cancerous
- B: Border. The border of cancerous moles often look irregular or scalloped
- C: Cancerous moles are often darker in color than benign moles, or have multiple colors
- D: Cancerous moles are normally more than 6 diameters (the size of a pencil eraser)
- E: If a mole is changing in shape, size, color, or is bleeding or itching, it is exhibiting irregular behavior
If any of these qualities apply to your mole, you should have it evaluated by a professional as soon as possible.
Sunflower Home Health recommends the following practices when exposing your skin to the sun:
- SPF 30 or stronger sunscreen
- Waterproof Sunscreen
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outdoors
- Re-apply sunscreen every two hours or as needed as you start to feel “hot-spots” on your skin
- Wearing clothing that will protect your skin from the sun
- Seeing a Dermatologist yearly
If you would like to know more about Melanoma/Skin Cancer, please don’t hesitate to navigate to the contact us form and reach out or give us a call at your local office. Those numbers are listed below:
Charleston – (662) 647-0653
Clarksdale – (662) 624-4141
Cleveland – (662)756-4676
Greenwood – (662) 455-3535
Grenada – (662) 294-0726
Indianola – (662) 887-1518
At Sunflower Home Health, we truly believe that education and awareness are the keys to making the Mississippi Delta a healthy and safe place to live, something that we are committed to making a reality.