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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

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May is Skin Cancer Awareness month and with an astounding 9500 cases diagnosed in the US every day [1] and 72,100 cases diagnosed in the UK [2] each year it warrants a thorough review of good old fashioned prevention.

 

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Write the author.

 

First up, what is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is damage to the DNA of your skin cells due to UV (ultraviolet) light. This damage causes the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form a malignancy. The biggest trigger is UV light typically from the sun. One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence can double a person’s chance of developing melanoma.

 

Type of skin cancers

There are 2 main types of skin cancers: nonmelanoma (basal cell carcinomas, BCC and squamous cell carcinomas, SCC) and melanoma.

 

BCCs and SCCs are slower growing cancers that typically show in sun exposed areas and develop after years of sun damage. These should be assessed as soon as possible because they do have the ability to create a lot of tissue damage if not treated. These are often easily curable.

 

Melanoma is often referred to as malignant melanoma as it is a much more serious form of skin cancer. It occurs much less often than BCCs or SCCs but causes more death. Sometimes it forms in hard to see areas. Asians and those with darker skin colour tend to have melanoma in the places that have less pigment such as palms, soles, mouth, and nail area. It can grow deep into the skin, into the bloodstream, and travel to other parts throughout the body. Melanoma can be cured, but if not found and treated early, it can be deadly.

 

What does it look like?

BCCs and SCCs can look like a sore, ulcer, lump, or red patch on your skin. Melanomas can be spotted by following the ABCDE guidelines:

  • Asymmetry – do the two halves match? Benign moles are uniform throughout
  • Border – borders of early melanomas can be uneven
  • Colour – having a variety of colours can be a warning sign
  • Diameter – benign moles are usually smaller; melanomas are usually larger than a pencil eraser, although they may be smaller when first detected.
  • Evolving – benign moles stay the same over time; if a mole changes in size, colour, shape, or a new trait develops such as crusting, this needs to be checked.

 

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Prevention

Skin cancer can be avoided.

  • Avoid the sun during it’s hottest hours of 10 am – 4 pm
  • Cover the skin with clothing, a wide brim hat, and sunglasses.
  • Sunscreen – 2 tablespoons of sunscreen is enough for 2 hours, more frequent applications if swimming or excessive sweating. Look for a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen that has a 30 SPF or higher.
  • See your physician once a year for a full body skin exam.

 

Do a self exam every few months and see your physician if anything looks suspicious!

 

 

Author: Melissa Doyle, FNP-BC, MSN, RN
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Photo source:
Banner – http://uacc.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/skin-cancer- month.jpg
Lady with Bettle – https://pixabay.com/en/beach-beautiful-beetle-classic-1853939/

 

Reference:
[1] American Academy of Dermatology, www.aad.org
[2] British Association of Dermatologist, www.bad.org.uk

 

 

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