Enjoy summer fun, but shield yourself again skin cancer

June 22, 2017

Melanie Raynor

Wednesday marked the first official day of summer. Yay! Summertime, for most people, includes vacationing, cooling off in the pool, sending kids to camp and spending lots of time outdoors. No matter where I’m going, or what I’m doing, there’s always one thing that I throw in my bag – sunscreen!

Year-round, our doctors, our friends and even our favorite talk show hosts remind us to wear sunscreen and hats and to limit sun exposure. Despite these warnings, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 87,110 new cases of melanoma in 2017. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, and the most common type of skin cancer among young adults.

Being fair-skinned and having experienced many, many sunburns in my life, I am particularly careful and paranoid about sun exposure. I am also more mindful now as an adult who understands the risk, and a mom who has little ones to protect.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is often curable, if caught and treated in its early stages. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Any change in the size or color of a mole or other darkly pigmented growth or spot;
  • Any new skin growth;
  • The spread of pigmentation beyond a growth’s border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark; or
  • A change in sensation, itchiness, tenderness or pain of a growth or spot.
  • Scaliness, oozing, bleeding or change in the overall appearance of a bump or nodule;

While unprotected sun exposure has been strongly linked to skin cancer, the American Cancer Society suggests these other skin cancer risk factors:

  • Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation, such as that used in a tanning bed;
  • A history of severe sunburns.
  • Fair complexion;
  • Family history;
  • Multiple or atypical moles; and
  • Occupational exposures to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds or radium;

It’s important to know these risk factors and get regular skin exams by your physician – these things can greatly reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.

As you venture outside this summer, consider these tips for helping prevent skin cancer:

  • Avoid prolonged sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15+ every day.
  • When going outside for extended periods, reapply sunscreen every two hours and cover up with clothing, including a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, whenever possible.
  • Examine your skin from head-to-toe every month, and see your physician for a professional skin exam each year.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun, as sunscreens should only be used on babies over the age of six months.

I hope you’ll remember these tips as you venture out this summer. Your skin will thank you!

For more information about skin cancer prevention, visit www.cancer.org.

Melanie Raynor is the marketing coordinator at Wilson Medical Center.