Memorial Day is often considered the start to the summer season, with dreams of glowing, tanned skin in mind. This summer, Memorial Hermann reminds the public of the importance of protecting skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays and the potential risks for skin cancer.
According to a report published in the Journal of American Medical Association, one out of every five people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer sometime during his or her life. The greater a person’s exposure to UV rays, the greater the risk for developing skin cancer.
The American Cancer Society says UV protection is as easy as “Slip! Slop! Slap!” – and offers three easy-to-remember tips:
“Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30, seeking shade when the sun is strongest, and wearing protective clothing, like long-sleeved shirts, will go a long way in protecting your skin from harmful rays,” says Libbyette Wright, MD, a dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.
Consumer Reports also remind parents about the extra precautions they should take with their young children. They recommend young children wear a hat with a 3-inch brim as well as long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Besides avoiding the sun, early diagnosis and treatment are the next best steps in fighting skin cancer.
“I encourage my patients to do a skin check at least once a month. The more often you check, the more likely you are to see changes or abnormalities that may need a doctor’s attention. That’s especially important for those who have a family history of skin cancer. When detected early, skin cancer is curable,” reminds Dr. Wright, who specializes in Mohs micrographic and reconstructive surgery. According to Dr. Wright, moles and other skin abnormalities can also be evaluated by using the A-B-C-D test recommended by the American Melanoma Foundation:
Asymmetry - When the lesion is divided into halves, if the right half does NOT look like the left half, it is asymmetrical in shape.
Border - Moles that have irregular or poorly defined borders should be reported. The borders appear notched or seem to fade or “stream out” onto the surrounding skin.
Color - Is the color of the mole varied? Does the mole have tan, brown, black, blue, red, or white areas?
Diameter - Is the mole larger than six millimeters in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser)? Although six millimeters is used as a general guideline for evaluating growth of a mole, any mole that is asymmetrical, has an irregular border, has color variations, and is changing should be evaluated by your health care provider — even if it is less than six millimeters in diameter. A positive finding of any of the ABCDs may indicate the mole is a malignant melanoma.
Dr. Wright also recommends everyone between 20 to 40 years old get a cancer-related checkup including a skin exam every three years, and every year for people 40 or older. During a 2015 community outreach activity across several Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers, skin cancer screenings encouraged 58 people to get further evaluation on skin abnormalities.
Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers offer diverse treatment options and therapies. With eight locations throughout the Houston area, Memorial Hermann is working to make cancer treatment easily accessible and convenient.