Summer Skin Safety: Preventing Melanoma

Tips for summer skin safety - preventing melanomaMelanoma is a cancer that originates in melanocytes of the skin. The incidence of Melanoma has recently gone up. Reasons for this increase include depletion of the ozone layer and tanning bed use. If caught early this cancer has a cure rate of over 90%. Up to one-fifth of patients diagnosed late will die. This is why early detection is so important. Fair skinned people have a higher rate of Melanoma, but darker skinned people are also at risk.

Risk factors for skin cancer include fair skin, latitude, immunosuppression (including transplant patients), Dysplastic Nevi and UV light exposure. Prevention is the best treatment. As both UVA and UVB contribute to your melanoma risk, sunblock with Zinc or Titanium Oxide at a minimum SPF of 30 are recommended. To reduce your risk sunblock must be applied every hour you are in the sun and after coming out of the water. Many people believe that because they are wearing sunblock they are protected, however most people don’t wear sunblock as they should and their risk is therefore increased. To prevent this risk be generous with the amount of sunblock you use and reapply it for better coverage.

Another preventive measure is having a Melanoma screening. This is a simple exam done by a dermatologist to detect Melanoma. Self-exams once a month are also recommended. If there is something on your skin that is different, changing, growing or bleeding you should follow up with a dermatologist immediately. The major criteria include asymmetry, irregular borders, multiple colors, diameter greater than 6mm, and something evolving or changing. Keep in mind that Melanoma can occur under the nails and on the palms and soles.

We all want to enjoy the summer, but be smart and protect yourself and your loved ones from dangers of Melanoma and other skin cancers.

Written by: Norma Montiel, DO

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