In observance of Melanoma Monday – May 7 – the board-certified oncologists at Epic Care, Partners in Cancer Care, are sharing life-saving tips to help prevent skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States.
“Melanoma, although the most severe skin cancer, can have a 97 percent survival rate if caught early enough,” said Dr. Michael Forrest, radiation oncologist at Epic Care. “It’s tempting to soak up the sun as it warms up, but we’re asking for people to protect their skin first.”
According to Forrest, three items are necessary to protect the skin from damaging UV rays. “Sunscreen is key when you’re outside,” he said. “But make sure it’s applied correctly and in adequate quantity.” His rule for sunblock: 2-30. “It takes about two tablespoons of sunblock to cover your entire body and should be applied 30 minutes before you actually go outside.” This gives the skin enough time to absorb the lotion and become effective in blocking the UV rays. Forrest also urges everyone to reapply every few hours, after drying off or excessive sweating.
Hats, sun-protective clothing and sunglasses are other important items Dr. Forrest recommends to help block the sun. Wide-brimmed hats can help shield the nose, ears, shoulders and scalp from burns. “It takes only one bad sunburn in childhood to double your chances of developing melanoma later in life,” said Forrest. So protect your children and grandchildren with these same items.
The last item Forrest recommends in the arsenal against melanoma is a mirror: “It’s crucial to know every mole and freckle on your body. Any change can signify a problem and should be checked by a doctor immediately.” Self-exams are recommended more frequently for the fair-skinned, those with atypical moles or freckles, or a history of severe burns.
When examining moles, remember A-B-C-D-E:
A is for ASYMMETRY: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for BORDER: Normal spots have smooth edges. Cancerous spots may have irregular, ragged, notched or blurred edges.
C is for COLOR: The color is not the same throughout and may include shades of brown or black or sometimes patches of red, white or blue.
D is for DIAMETER: Benign moles are about the size of a pencil eraser – about ¼ inch. Anything larger is worrisome.
E is for ELEVATED: A spot that protrudes above skin level is another warning sign.
It’s also important to avoid midday sun (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), sun bathing, and tanning salons. “You don’t need to avoid the sun altogether,” said Forrest. “But protect yourself with your own arsenal against skin cancer this summer. Taking these precautions will lessen your risk for all types of skin cancer, including melanoma.”
– Courtesy of Epic Care, Partners in Cancer Care