Skin Cancer Detection and Life Saving Tips
Because the scary truth is that skin cancer can kill you.Approximately 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer, but if treated early, skin cancer is nearly 100% curable. Annual skin exams are hands down the best way to keep yourself healthy and skin cancer-free. But knowing the difference between skin cancer and freckles is important and can prompt you to take action on your own.
Is it Skin Cancer or Mole? What Skin Cancer Looks Like
It’s important to know what skin cancer looks like. Sometimes what appears to be a beauty mark or freckle is actually skin cancer. A quick, easy skin screening can help detect skin cancer early. A skin check is best performed by a dermatologist, but there are ways you can do it at home, too. Look out for any changes in your moles, such as size, color or shape. You’ll also want to keep track of any new moles on your body.
Detecting a skin cancer on your body can be tricky, that’s why it’s important to learn the A,B,C,D, Es of melanoma:
- A stands for asymmetry. Benign moles are symmetrical. If you were to cut your mole in half, it should look the same on both sides.
- B stands for border. If your mole has an uneven border, it could be a red flag.
- C stands for color. The color of your mole should be uniform.
- D stands for diameter. Your mole should not be any larger than a pencil eraser.
- E stands for evolving shape and color. Moles should stay the same.
If you see any of the above warning signs on your skin, see a dermatologist immediately. Get in the habit of seeing a dermatologist for your annual screening regardless. A good way to remember is by scheduling your appointment during your birthday month every year. During your office visits, you can review the warning signs to look for at home and safe, preventative care for your skin.
Skin Cancer and Tanning Beds
When young and healthy people come into our dermatology offices with a mole on their skin only to be told that it’s skin cancer, many times tanning beds are the culprit behind this terrible news. We’re lucky to live in a day and age where staying healthy is easy. We’ve got a green juice shop and a Soul Cycle on almost every corner. However, for some reason, there is a still a disconnect between health and sun protection. Melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, is the second most common cancer in young women, and we know this is due in part to tanning habits.
Many people—particularly young women– just feel better when then have a tan. Having that sun-kissed color on your skin, it makes you look better in selfies, it makes your body look more toned. “I look amazing in a swimsuit when I’m pale.” Said no one ever. But the truth is that there’s no such thing as a healthy tan. If you crave that beach bronzed look. Go out and get yourself a good self-tanner! It’s a lot safer than the sun.
There’s No Such Thing as a Healthy Tan
As dermatologists, we try hard to change the perception and culture about tanning. However, while smoking is now widely known to be a serious health hazard, we still have a long way to go with changing how the public—especially young women in that 18-35 age group–perceive tanning. A recent study showed that:
- 71% of women aged 18 to 34 understand that there is no such thing as a healthy tan
- 66% of these same women know that getting a base tan is not a healthy way to achieve protection from the sun’s rays
- 98% know that skin cancer can be deadly
Yet the fact remains that melanoma is the second most common cancer in this age group. So, the danger is still very real. It’s critical to understand just how unsafe it is to tan. In some cases, this understanding could be the difference between a long and healthy life and one that is cut tragically short.
Skin Cancer Safety Tips
What can you do to help safeguard yourself from all types of skin cancer, including melanoma? Here, are some easy to follow ways to protect yourself from skin cancer:
- Wear broad-spectrum SPF 30 every day—rain or shine—on all exposed skin.
- Re-apply your sunscreen. It doesn’t last all day. If you go swimming or you’re sweating, re-apply it. Regardless, if you’re outside for an extended period of time, make sure you’re reapplying your sunscreen.
- Try to avoid peak hours of the sun – 10am-4pm. But if you can’t avoid the sun during those hours, then make sure you’re wearing broad spectrum SPF 30 and trying to find shady areas.
- Cover up! Seek shade under a tree or under an umbrella or a tent.
- Wear a wide brimmed hat and clothing with UPF along with your sunscreen. This is not an either / or situation. Sunscreen should always be worn, regardless if you’re covered up. Studies have shown that the combination of the two is a better way to protect your skin than just relying on one of those methods.
- Know what your skin looks like. If you see any new moles or any moles that have changed color, shape or size. It’s time to see the dermatologist. When in doubt, get it checked out!
- Go to your dermatologist for an annual skin screening. It only takes 15 minutes and it could save your life. At Schweiger Dermatology Group, we like to say: “On your birthday, come in and get your birthday suit checked out.” Skin exams should be just as routine as teeth cleanings at the dentist.
Partnering with a dermatology provider is the best way to detect skin cancer. Our team of skin cancer specialists are available for screenings, skin cancer removal, biopsies and MOHS surgery. Call 844-DERM-DOC to schedule an appointment.