According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, this disease kills two Americans every single hour and is diagnosed in an additional 9,500 Americans every day. Skin cancer is the most common and widespread type of cancer in the U.S. It’s also one of the easiest to spot with the naked eye, if you know what you’re looking for. Here’s how to keep yourself safe.
Most often, skin cancer presents itself in the form of a problematic mole. And when detected early, the mole can be removed by a dermatologist before the skin cancer spreads. Skin cancers like melanoma and various carcinomas are known for spreading to other systems of the body through the lymph system, making them particularly deadly. Fortunately, by keeping an eye on your moles, you can spot signs of trouble early on.
Conduct your self exam in a well-lit area like your bathroom. Have both a full length mirror and a handheld mirror. Start by examining your face, particularly your nose, lips, mouth, and ears. If possible, have a friend or family member examine your scalp as well. Next, look at your hands and arms, including your underarms, before moving on to your torso and back (again, a friend or family member can be very helpful for these areas). End with examining your feet and legs.
The three red flags to look for are new, changing, or unusual spots. These could include moles you’ve had for some time that have changed in size, shape, or color. Or they might be suspicious-looking spots that appear pearly or transparent. Anything larger than a pencil eraser should be checked out by a professional, as well as itchy, crusty, painful, or bleeding spots. Even open sores that have not healed after three weeks should be cause for concern. If you catch any of these issues, make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately.
It should go without saying, but wearing sunscreen is a must for preventing skin cancer. And this shouldn’t only be a practice on days when you’re in direct sunlight, but rather on a daily basis. Wear a product with SPF 30 or higher every day, even if you’re indoors. Wear SPF 50 or higher when outside and avoid the midday hours when the sun is at its peak, around 12-2 pm. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or sun shirt at the pool or beach can help protect your skin.
Avoid tanning beds with artificial UV light, which can damage the skin and cause skin cancer. And be sure to get an annual skin cancer screening at your dermatologist’s office. This is important for everyone but particularly critical for those with fair skin, light hair, and blue or green eyes or those who have a personal or family history of skin cancers.
If you’re in Baton Rouge or the surrounding areas and have a concerning mole or are due for a skin cancer screening, contact Louisiana Dermatology Associates today for an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists.