Learn Your Risks and How to Recognize, Prevent Skin Cancer

Spotting Skin CancerSkin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, and incidences of this disease have more than doubled in the last 30 years. And while melanoma makes up only two percent of skin cancers, it is one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer.

Skin cancer is most common in Caucasian men over age 50, but rates have been increasing for younger women and other demographics as well, owing to a trend of over-exposure to UV light through tanning. While fair skin, light eyes and light-colored hair increase risk of developing skin cancer, exposure to both natural and artificial UV rays is an easily avoidable risk factor. Here are some simple practices to help prevent skin cancer:

  • Avoid the sun in the middle of the day, between 10 a.m.-2 p.m., when UV rays are the strongest.
  • Be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF greater than 30 when out in the sun, and wear protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses.
  • Remember that water, snow and sand reflect rays and can damage skin faster than exposure in other environments.
  • Get your vitamin D through your diet, not the sun, from foods like fish and dairy products.
  • Avoid tanning beds, and consider using sunless tanning products to get that summer glow.

While not all skin cancer and melanomas are avoidable, when caught early, survival rates for melanoma are close to 98 percent. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, knowing and understanding the warning signs of melanoma and how to check your skin can increase your chances of detecting melanoma early on.

Recognizing melanoma is as simple as “A-B-C-D-E”:

  1. Asymmetry: One half of a spot does not look like the other half.
  2. Border: The edges of the spot are irregular, scalloped or poorly-defined.
  3. Color: While typically shades of tan, brown or black, the spot can also contain red, white or blue, and vary from one part of the spot to the next.
  4. Diameter: When diagnosed, melanomas are usually about 6 mm in diameter, but you can catch them when they are much smaller.
  5. Evolving: Look out for moles or spots that look different from others on your body or which change in size, shape or color.

After you learn what to look for, conduct a thorough self-examination of your skin, being sure to evaluate everything from freckles and sunspots to moles and birthmarks. Finally, make notes on all of your spots so that you can continue to track them if they should change or grow in the future.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with UC Health Dermatology, call 513-475-7630.

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