Skin Cancer Awareness and Sun Safety
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s important to be aware and share in order to save lives. There are many types of skin cancer, but melanoma is serious and dangerous since it can rapidly spread and grow. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it’s estimated that the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed will increase by 5.8 percent and the number of melanoma deaths is expected to increase by 4.8 percent in 2021. The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun, and when you have five or more sunburns, that doubles your risk for this deadly cancer.
“My passion for fighting skin cancer began long ago and it has deeply affected my family. My paternal grandfather, my father and my sister all died from melanoma. My passion for protecting and rejuvenating skin health is what gets me out of bed every day, going to work, and teaching patients about doing simple things like going to the dermatologist yearly, checking their skin monthly, and wearing their sunscreen daily.”
Ellen Turner, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist, Dermatology Office, Dr. Ellen Turner
Melanoma and all skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, which means that this is preventable. By implementing a sun safe lifestyle we can reduce our skin cancer risks.
Let’s talk about how you can protect your skin health.
Six Ways to Stay Safe from Melanoma
- Limit your exposure to UV rays. This is the most important way to protect your skin and lower your risk from melanoma.
- Wear Sunscreen. Make sunscreen a daily habit and most importantly, reapply at least every two hours. UV radiation can still damage skin even in the winter and on cloudy days. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects against UVA and UVB rays) with SPF of at least 30.
- Wear Protective Clothing. Protect your body with sun-protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, similar to SPF for sunscreen. While SPF refers to the amount of protection a topical sunscreen offers from UVB rays, the UPF factor describes how much protection a piece of clothing offers from both UVA and UVB rays. Click here for more information on UPF clothing.
- Avoid Peak Rays. Seek shade during the mid-day sun, when the sun’s rays are most intense. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Avoid using tanning beds. Using tanning beds has been shown to increase the risk of melanoma by up to 75%. Tanning beds give off UV rays, which can cause long-term skin damage and contribute to skin cancer.
- Have your skin checked. Check your skin regularly, typically every month (as recommended by many doctors) and visit your board certified dermatologist for your annual professional skin check.
“As a dermatologist there are several things I recommend patients do to protect themselves from skin cancer, avoid peak sun hours, wear UPF protective clothing, and hats and most importantly apply and reapply daily sun protection. My go to products are the Colorescience Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50, I often recommend applying a generous layer every morning with frequent touch ups with the convenient Total Protection Brush On Shield SPF 50 throughout the day. Because the Colorescience SPF products are coral and reef safe and have demonstrated proven protection against the damaging effects of UVA and UVB, blue light, infrared radiation and pollution, I am confident my patients are getting the protection they need to stay sun safe.”
Margaret Kontras Sutton, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist, Sutton Dermatology + Aesthetics
How to Examine your Skin
Before you begin skin checks, get a full-length mirror to use when examining your body skin (use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see, such as the back of your thighs). You can also ask a close friend or family member to help you check your back or scalp.
- Face the mirror.
- Check your face, ears, neck, chest, and belly. Women will need to lift their breasts to check the skin underneath.
- Check your underarm areas, both sides of your arms, the tops and palms of your hands, in between your fingers, and under your fingernails.
- Sit down
- Check the front of your thighs, shins, tops of your feet, in between your toes, and under your toenails.
- Now use a hand mirror to look at the bottoms of your feet, your calves, and the backs of your thighs, first checking one leg and then the other.
- Use the hand mirror to check your buttocks, genital area, lower and upper back, and the back of your neck and ears. Or it may be easier to look at your back in the wall mirror using a hand mirror.
- Use a comb or hair dryer to part your hair so that you can check your scalp.
Note: The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a bath or shower. Check any moles, blemishes, or birthmarks from the top of your head to your toes. If you look at your skin regularly, you will know what’s normal for you.
What to Look for in your Skin
The ABCDE rule is a guide to the usual signs of melanoma:
- A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
- D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
- E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Note: Some melanomas don’t fit these rules. Keep in mind any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.
Make a note of anything that concerns you and share that with your dermatologist.
Visit your Dermatologist for Annual Skin Checks
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, as part of a complete early detection strategy, they recommend that you see a dermatologist once a year, or more often if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer, for a full-body, professional skin exam. When detected early the 5 year survival rate for melanoma is 99%!
To help you prepare and make the most of your appointment, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you follow these five simple steps.
- Perform a self-exam, as mentioned above, and come to your appointment prepared with notes about any new, changing or unusual spots you want to point out to your dermatologist. If you’ve taken smartphone photos of a spot that has changed over time, be sure to show them to your dermatologist.
- Remove nail polish from your fingers and toes to enable thorough examination of fingers, nails and nail beds, since skin cancers can form there.
- Wear your hair loose. Remove pony tails, buns or hair clips so that your doctor can get a good look at your scalp where skin cancers can, and do, develop.
- Pack makeup remover to bring to your appointment and remove any makeup before your exam so that the skin around your eyes is easy to examine.
- Ask questions. This is your opportunity to get valuable advice and insight from a professional trained specifically in diseases of the skin. From explanations of unfamiliar terms to pointers on how to do a skin self-exam, your doctor is an excellent source of information!
“May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and it’s a great opportunity to use our platforms to ask our patients to pledge to get their annual skin checks by a board-certified dermatologist AND to pledge to protect their skin from sun damage with mineral sunscreens, wide-brim hats, and protective UPF clothing.”
Christopher Ha, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist, Roseville Dermatology
Melanoma is the most serious and deadly form of skin cancer. This dangerous skin cancer can spread from the surface of the skin into the deeper layers of the skin. The good news is, if you follow the right steps to protect and check yourself, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
At Colorescience, we are dedicated to working in partnership with dermatologists and skin health professionals to create effective and innovative products that are formulated to provide best in class protection.
Please share this information with your family and friends.
For more information, please visit: skincancer.org
This blog post was written by Brittany Lam.