Just like in Game of Thrones, winter has come and gone. That means: here are the days when we bask in endless sunshine, and rock a nice, golden tan.
Not so fast. That sun is powerful, and protecting your skin is of the utmost importance.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. 1 in 5 people in the United States will develop some form of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, but “Melanoma is an entirely different condition that has a greater risk of metastasizing and spreading to other parts of the body,” says Adam J. Wulkan, MD director of cosmetic and laser dermatology at Lahey Health Hub at MarketStreet in Lynnfield.
Melanoma, while often being a treatable form of skin cancer is also the most serious if ignored.
How can you check for Melanoma? Follow these ABCDEs when you perform a self-skin check.
Check for asymmetry in any of your moles or brown spots.
If you have borders around the spot that are highly irregular or poorly defined, get it checked out.
Color. Varying colors (brown, red, black, etc) can be a warning sign and should be evaluated. “There are times when I have patients come in for a cosmetic treatment, say to get a brown spot removed by a laser, but it is my responsibility to make sure any spots that look concerning are benign,” says Wulkan on why visiting a cosmetic dermatologist can also be beneficial.
If the diameter of the spot is larger than the head of a pencil eraser, seek some medical advice. Keep in mind, cancerous spots can still be smaller.
Watch a spot to see if it evolves — changes size or color. If so, be sure to visit a dermatologist.
What are some ways to prevent melanoma? We have some tips and easy mistakes to avoid, as well:
An SPF of 30 or greater should allow for enough protection from the sun’s rays, but it’s all about application and re-application.
Use about a golf ball sized amount of sunblock from neck to toe and re-apply every 2-3 hours. It’s easy to not apply enough sunscreen to the body and face, therefore not getting adequate coverage.
More of a fan of the spray bottles of sunblock? While Wulkan says he would prefer patients opt for the lotion over the spray bottle, something is better than nothing. “Just make sure to shake the bottle really well and rub it in, even if the bottle says you don’t have to.”
Those tanning beds can seem like a quick fix to a pale complexion, but they are highly dangerous. If Final Destination 3 didn’t creep you out enough, perhaps real data can assist.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, people who first use tanning beds before the age of 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75%.
Moral of the story- stay away.
UV protective clothing is critical when out in the sun. And they’re easy to find (thanks, Amazon). When it comes to headgear, opt for a wide-brimmed hat. At least those are in fashion these days.
Learn more about skin cancer prevention by visiting your local dermatologist.