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Are You Checking Your Skin for Melanoma?

melanoma awareness, skin cancerMay is Melanoma Awareness month

This May is Melanoma Awareness month. In case you’re not familiar with the term, melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Of the four types of skin cancer, it is the most dangerous, especially if it is not caught early. Take a moment today to learn more about skin cancer and what you can do to protect yourself.

According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, 1 in 5 people will experience skin cancer in their lives. This may sound alarming, but the positive news is that there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of getting skin cancer. During the month of May, as people are gearing up for sunny summer days at the pool or the beach, it’s important to think about sun exposure. Take note of these tips that can help protect your skin and your life!

Skin cancer prevention tips
Many skin cancers develop as a result of sun damage and sun exposure. For this reason, avoiding the sun is one of the best ways to keep your skin safe. Try these tips:

  • Seek the shade! Stay out of the sun whenever possible.
  • Wear sunscreen regularly, with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply every 2 hours.
  • Cover your skin when you’re in the sun. This means long sleeves, brimmed hats, and sunglasses.
  • Do not use tanning beds.
  • Do monthly skin self-exams to catch trouble spots early (see below).

Types of skin cancers
Not all skin cancers are the same, but most of them can be spotted by doing skin exams. There are four main types. This first is actinic keratosis, which is a pre-cancerous growth that can be removed by a dermatologist. It usually appears as a patch of thick, scaly, or crusty skin. The second is basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common type. This usually appears on the skin as a pink patch of skin or a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump. Squamous cell carcinoma often appears like a firm red bump, a scaly patch, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a sore that heals but then re-opens. The final type of skin cancer is melanoma. This is the least common type of skin cancer, and it is the most deadly. It often develops within an existing mole, so it’s important to be aware of any changes in your moles. It can also appear as a new dark spot or growth on the skin.

Catching it early: the ABCDE’s of melanoma
With all four types of skin cancer, early detection is extremely important. Catching it early gives your doctor the best chance of stopping the spread of the cancer. This is why the American Academy of Dermatologists and other organizations are promoting the importance of monthly skin self-exams. By knowing what to look for, you may be able to notice a change in your skin and see a doctor right away.

The ABCDE’s of melanoma have been developed to help you understand what you should be looking for and how to perform a skin exam. Here are the basics: Begin by making a body mole map to record where your existing moles are and approximately how big they are. Then each month, you should be looking for moles or growths that are:

A = asymmetrical
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

In addition to your monthly self-exams, you should ask your physician to examine your skin during your yearly physical. The American Academy of Dermatologists offers free exams periodically through their SPOTme® Skin Cancer Screening. You can search by zip code to find out about the next free screening in your area.

We hope this blog post has increased your awareness of melanoma and other skin cancers. With a few simple preventative measures and regular skin self-exams, you can help to reduce your risk. And remember, if you do see something that worries you, contact your doctor as soon as you can. Taking charge of your health may take a little extra time, but it is well worth it!

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The Harris School of Business is proud to offer career training programs in the fields of healthcare and allied health and wants to help raise awareness of public health issues. Contact us online to learn more about beginning your new career path with us.