SPARTANBURG — We’re all eager to get outdoors as the weather gets warmer. From playing baseball, going for a jog or fishing with your buddies, your outdoor activities place you in the sun — so make sure you are lathered with sunscreen before you go out.
The sun’s warmth may feel nice on your skin, but the longer the sun’s rays beat down on you, the more damage your skin endures.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun reach the inner layers of skin. This produces more melanin, or skin pigment, making the outer layer tan or red. These color changes are a response to injury and do not indicate good health. Excessive UV exposure over time could lead to skin cancer.
There are approximately 3.5 million skin cancer cases, and 2.2 million people are diagnosed with a form of skin cancer each year. Skin cancer is curable if diagnosed and treated early. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. However, the most serious type of skin cancer is melanoma.
That dark brown mole on your back may be more than “just a mole.” The average person has between 10 and 40 moles on their body.
The number of moles you have can change throughout your life: new moles can develop and some may disappear as you age. But what exactly are they, and where do they come from? Moles are small, colored spots made of melanocytes, which are cells that create skin pigment.
Though most moles are harmless, it is important to keep an eye on them in case they develop into abnormal moles—called dysplastic nevi—which have the possibility of becoming cancerous.
You may be uncertain if a mole is cancerous or not, which is why it’s important to visit your primary care physician or dermatologist each year for a full-body skin exam. In between those exams, look yourself over when you get out of the shower and be on the lookout for any new or abnormal looking moles.
Use the ABCDE method to remember what to check for:
• “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
• “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
• “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
• “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
• “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?
You should also let your doctor know if you have a mole that is painful, itching, burning, inflamed, oozing, or bleeding, as these symptoms may also be a sign of melanoma.
When you do your self-examination, make sure you check your entire body, as moles can appear anywhere, even around your ears, scalp, and underarms; bottoms of your feet, between toes, and under your nails.
While performing self-examinations are important, there are multiple ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer?
• Do not burn. Your risk for melanoma doubles if you have five or more sunburns at any point in your life.
• Do not tan or use UV tanning booths. Tanning booths increase your risk of skin cancer, and also cause premature damage, such as wrinkles and age spots.
• Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Clothing can be your most effective form of sun protection.
• Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and re-apply every 30 minutes.
• Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. If you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious, see a physician immediately.
• Consider genetic components. Those with fair skin, red or blond hair, a family history, or green or blue eyes are at a higher risk.
Not sure about a mole you just spotted on your shoulder? Get checked out at one of our skin cancer screenings!
Skin Cancer Events
Gibbs Wellness Café: Spot on Skin Cancer
Wednesday, May 18, 12-1 p.m.
Heart Center Auditorium
Held the third Wednesday of each month, Gibbs Wellness Café is a monthly conversation focusing on various topics related to cancer and the community. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and our Dermatologist will discuss prevention and educational topics to help you lower your risk for skin cancer. Skin Cancer is both treatable and beatable with early detection. Lunch will be provided at this free event but registration is required. Register online at SpartanburgRegional.com/Events or call 864-560-6508 for more information.
Skin Cancer Screenings
Tuesday, June 17, 1-4 p.m.
Medical Group of the Carolinas — Mountain Park
135 Botanical Cir, Travelers Rest, SC 29690
No appointment necessary
This story courtesy of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.