The temps are heating up here in Charleston, SC, which means lots of fun in the sun! Before hitting the beach there are some facts you should know about skin cancer: when to get screened and what precautions to take to avoid getting cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. That being the case, it is important to know about the different types of skin cancer, as well as the preventative measures to decrease the chances of having skin cancer.
More than two million people in the United States each year are diagnosed with the most common types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These types of skin cancer are easily detectable as alterations or changes in the skin occur. If alterations and changes are noticed quickly enough, they are promptly examined by a dermatologist who also performs a biopsy. Non-melanoma skin cancers, because they are easily detectable, are also easily curable.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer; luckily, it is not as common as other types of skin cancer. Melanoma is potentially lethal, and new cases of malignant melanoma have been steadily increasing since 2005.
People with the following traits are more susceptible to skin cancer and should receive lifelong dermatologic surveillance as well as perform monthly self-exams:
- A family history of melanoma and other skin cancers
- Atypical moles (irregular borders, color variation, or are asymmetrical)
- Skin that burns easily/fails to tan
- Freckling, blue eyes or red hair
- A history of blistering sunburns
The most preventable cause of skin cancer is the sun. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), adequately protecting one’s skin from the sun is an easy way to prevent skin cancer. Here’s how:
- Avoid tanning beds. The same dangerous ultraviolet light from the sun is used by tanning beds.
- Seek shade during the sun’s apex (10am – 2pm). If your shadow is shorter than you, get out of the sun.
- Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses whenever possible.
- Near sand, snow and water? Use caution, as those surfaces reflect and intensify light and can cause skin damage regardless of the temperature.
- Wear sunscreen. Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen on your skin before sun exposure (Sun Protection Factor of 30 or higher). Reapply every two hours regardless of the weather.
Along with lifelong dermatologic surveillance, we may recommend that you undergo a skin cancer screening. This screening is a visual inspection of your skin, performed by a dermatologist. These screenings are performed before any symptoms are found, if something appears abnormal during the screening a biopsy will be taken. A pathologist will evaluate the biopsy and determine if the growth is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
To schedule a skin cancer screening appointment with Derm Clinics Charleston, contact us at (843) 795-7546.