How to Protect Yourself from Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers
The weather is warming up, which means one very important thing when it comes to your skin: sunscreen. Without proper SPF protection, exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Though it’s not as common as other skin cancers, melanoma can be extremely dangerous if it’s not found in the early stages. Every year, nearly 70,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma and nearly 9,000 will die of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
Though people with fair complexions have a greater risk of developing melanoma, those with dark complexions actually have a much lower survival rate. Why? Because melanomas are more difficult to identify on darker skin, which means they’re more likely to be at an advanced stage when diagnosed. And while melanomas are strongly associated with unprotected exposure to the sun, they are frequently found in areas where the sun never shines, like between the toes, for example.
The good news, however, is that with annual skin cancer screenings and prompt removal of any suspicious skin features, you can dramatically reduce your risk. I also recommend that you routinely check your skin to detect any suspicious spots that should be seen by your doctor.
Here are some skin cancer signs to watch for:
• Change in the color or texture of your skin. New moles, changes in the size or color of a mole, or any other darkly pigmented growth or spot should be checked. Melanomas are typically darker than the surrounding skin.
• Change in the appearance of a bump or nodule.
• Scaliness, oozing or bleeding.
• Pigmentation that spreads beyond a defined border, such as the edge of a mole or mark.
• A mole, spot or mark that is asymmetrical or has irregular or scalloped borders.
• Change in the sensation around a mole or mark, such as itchiness, tenderness or pain.
So think of your annual skin cancer screening as an opportunity to care for yourself inclusively. By devoting attention to your topical health, you’ll also give yourself emotional self-care in the form of peace of mind.
Article by Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD, a world renowned skincare expert and founder of the Inclusive Health movement. Click here to learn more about Dr. Murad.