Posts Tagged ‘skin cancer’

August sun carries skin cancer risk

The August sun can be dangerous, and protecting your skin should be a high priority.

Although this is a year-round issue, overexposure to sun and its dangers occurs most during the summer. When skin is exposed to ultra-violet (UV) rays, it responds by producing melanin, a pigment that helps protect your skin to prevent further sun damage resulting in a “tan.”

The problem, however, is that the skin cannot produce the amount of melanin needed fast enough to protect most skin types from overexposure to UV rays.

Individuals with fair skin, red hair, and naturally blond hair or light-colored eyes, produce very little melanin when exposed to UV rays, which means their skin will likely skip the tanning stage and go straight to sunburn.

Even those with darker skin should take precautions, as anyone can be at risk to overexposure of UV rays.

UV light is responsible for the wrinkling and/or leathering of the skin and for causing sunburns – and can cause skin cancer, damage to the eyes and damage to the immune system.

To protect your skin from UV damage:

* Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher.

* Look for one that states it provides “broad spectrum” protection, which means it  provides protection from all forms of UV rays.

* Choose a water-resistant sunscreen to better protect your skin while wet.

* Reapply sunscreen often since none offer all-day protection.

* Avoid or limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as these are the hours where the sun is at its peak and you are most at risk for sun damage.

* Cover your skin as much as possible if you will be in it for long periods of time. Wear long sleeves and/or sun-protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

Melanoma: Early detection a life saver

It’s almost summer. The sun is higher in the sky. We spend more time outdoors. Thus, we invite skin cancer — the most common form of cancer in America. And dark skin does not mean you are immune.

More skin cancer cases are diagnosed each year than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, with one person dying of melanoma every hour.

While melanoma accounts for fewer than 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, it results in more than 75 percent of all cancer deaths. But if detected and treated early, the survival rate is 99 percent.

So, let’s get serious about preventing melanoma — as well as detecting and treating it before it’s too late — with the following information provided by UnitedHealthcare:

Melanoma is caused primarily by exposure to ultra-violet (UV) rays from the sun.

People with fair skin, especially those with red or blond hair, are more at risk. While white males over age 50 represent the majority of people diagnosed with melanoma, darker-skinned people must also be careful. In fact, their risk is often overlooked, leading to a late-stage diagnosis.

To minimize your risk of developing melanoma:

  • Avoid exposure to the sun and protect your skin during the hours of the day when the sun’s rays are the strongest — between 10:00 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Avoid significant tanning either from the sun or tanning salons.
  • Protect your skin using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher (even in winter); and by wearing appropriate clothing such as wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeve shirts.
  • Use special sunscreens for babies and children with even higher SPFs. Studies show that one or more blistering sunburns during childhood may be a significant risk factor in developing melanoma later in life.

How do you spot potential melanoma?

As early detection and treatment are critical to improving the likelihood of surviving melanoma, everyone should examine their skin carefully every six to eight weeks — being especially observant for lesions, moles and skin markings.

Look for any changes in the number, size, shape or color of lesions, moles and skin markings. For men, they are usually located on the torso, head, and neck area; for women, they will often develop on the lower legs and torso.

The best approach to spotting melanoma is to learn the simple ABCD approach as a useful guide when examining your lesions, moles and skin markings:

A = Asymmetry: Melanoma lesions are generally irregular or lopsided in shape (asymmetrical); noncancerous lesions are usually rounded (symmetrical).

B = Border: Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders that are ragged or notched; noncancerous lesions will generally have smoother, even borders.

C = Color: Melanoma lesions often consist of many shades of black and brown; noncancerous lesions will usually be a single shade of brown.

D = Diameter: Melanoma lesions are usually more than ¼ inch in diameter, which is about the size of a pencil eraser; noncancerous lesions will typically be less than this size in diameter.

Contact your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any unusual or odd-looking lesions, moles or skin markings. Your doctor will do a thorough examination of all of your lesions, moles and skin markings, and help you to assess your risk based on your medical history.

If your doctor suspects any of them could be cancerous, a biopsy may be performed.

Remember that early detection and treatment are key actions to take to minimize the effects of melanoma.