One of the best things about summer is being poolside soaking up the sun. For most, it is a carefree time filled with fun and relaxation. But for those that spend their days in the sun, skin cancer is a real concern. With constant exposure, you need to be aware of the early signs of skin cancer. Catching this disease in the beginning stages can mean the difference between life and death. Skin cancer may seem like a harmless cancer, but when left untreated, it can be life threatening. Educate yourself with the early warning signs before it's too late.
What are you looking for?
Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color. It doesn't take much exposure to the sun for skin cancer to take root. Irregular moles are the number one indicator of possible cancer. Knowing what makes a mole irregular is key to separating the harmless from the dangerous. An easy way to identify harmful moles is by following the ABCs of melanoma as outlined by Melanoma.org. They are:
- Asymmetrical shape - Benign moles are usually symmetrical. If you have a mole that takes an asymmetrical shape, it may be an indicator of cancer.
- Border - If the border of your mole is hard to define, it is irregular and should be checked.
- Color - Moles that are one color are generally harmless; multicolor moles can be an early sign of skin cancer.
- Diameter - If the diameter of your mole is larger than a pencil eraser (approx 6 mm), get it checked ASAP!
- Evolution - If your mole is changing in any way, shape or form, contact your dermatologist immediately.
Knowing the signs of skin cancer are only useful if you put that knowledge to work. You should examine your body regularly for the early indicators of cancer. Using a full size mirror or handheld mirror, carefully look over your entire body. Don't forget to check under your arms, on your elbows when they are bent, in and around your ears, between your toes and on the palms of your hands. Those places are often overlooked.
Lastly, your scalp can be hiding dangerous moles. With the help of a loved one or friend, carefully examine your scalp. Part your hair as needed to check your entire head for suspicious moles.
Your first line of defense against the sun's harmful rays is sunscreen. When shopping for a sunscreen, there are a few important traits you should be looking for:
- SPF 30 or higher - This blocks 97% of UVB rays.
- Water resistant sunscreen - Sunscreen isn't water or sweat proof, it merely resists water and sweat for a certain length of time. Choose a sunscreen that will offer you optimum water resistance.
- Broadband spectrum - When a sunscreen advertises broadband spectrum, it means it covers both UVA and UVB rays, both of which are harmful.
Apply your sunscreen as directed by the manufacturer. By doing this you are protecting your skin the best possible way. However, just because you are using sunscreen doesn't mean you are immune from skin cancer. You still need to do your regular checks for irregular moles.
When caught and treated early, skin cancer is highly curable. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially those whose jobs require them to be outside all day, protect yourself from the dangerous effects of the sun. Familiarize yourself with the early signs of skin cancer to prevent it from turning into something much worse. And if you find signs of any skin cancer, talk with a certified doctor, such as those at Friedrich Tomas J MD, as soon as possible.