According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Since virtually no one is immune to developing this highly treatable disease, here’s how to spot the early warning signs of skin cancer and protect everyone in your family from the sun’s harmful rays as the warm weather approaches.
Spot the Dot
Start by checking your skin at home. Dr. Jennifer DeFazio, dermatologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, shares the ABCDEs to help you remember what to look for:
B (irregular border)
C (multiple or uneven colors)
D (diameter of greater than 6 mm or the size
of a pencil head eraser)
E (evolving or changing)
Any moles or skin growth that appears uneven in color, size, shape or texture warrants a visit to the dermatologist.
If you have been diagnosed with either type of non-melanoma skin cancer (basal or squamous cell carcinoma), Mohs surgery may be recommended. During this procedure, cancerous tissue is removed and examined while a patient remains in the office. If cancer is still present, additional skin margins are removed until cancerous tissue is gone.
Treatment for melanoma, whose rates have doubled over the last 20 years, involves additional surgery. “If there is concern for melanoma having spread to the lymph nodes, a procedure called sentinel node biopsy may be performed to evaluate the lymph nodes for melanoma,” notes DeFazio. If detected early, melanoma is highly treatable.
All in the Family
Annual skin exams are advised for anyone who has been treated previously or has a family history. Because men are highly susceptible to developing skin cancer – those older than 50 are at greater risk for melanoma – be mindful of changes to your spouse’s skin. “Take a few minutes each month to evaluate your skin and your partner’s skin,” offers DeFazio, who recommends seeing a dermatologist if you notice anything suspicious.
Practice Safe Sunning
No need to hide from the sun this summer. Before heading outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum, water- resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Doctors recommend using a shot glass amount for the body and reapplying every two hours, as well as seeking shade between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.