Georgia can get pretty warm in the summer and as we make plans to pack up and head to the nearest mountains, amusement parks, pools, and beaches – there’s no better time than the present to share some knowledge on the importance of sun protection. With May marking Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the Abraham Family & Geriatric Medicine providers want to make sure our patients are properly educated about skin cancer prevention not just this month, but all year long. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and while it’s the most preventable form, our skin is regularly exposed to the sun and therefore more susceptible to the dangers of developing skin cancer. The importance of sun protection to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun is even more vital these days and we encourage you to keep reading to find out why!
Skin cancer is caused by an abnormal growth of skin cells that appear on the outer layers of skin and prompted by prolonged exposure to harmful UV radiation of the sun, whether you’re riding in the car or playing an outdoor sport. Men and women of all ages and skin tones/types can develop skin cancer and since it does not discriminate, it means that every single one of us is at risk. There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma: Known as the easiest form of skin cancer to treat (as it seldom advances, unless left untreated), basal cells most commonly form on the face, head, neck, and/or shoulders. They can have a pearly look to them and sometimes bleed or crust, making them look like sores that haven’t quite healed properly.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This type of skin cancer creates reddish, scaly/thick patches of skin. Squamous cells can be found on just about any part of the body that is exposed to sun the most.
- Melanoma: Melanoma is the most aggressive and deadliest form of skin cancer as one person dies from this form every hour. Spots affected with melanoma appear as black or brown lesions and can quickly change in shape, size, color, and elevation on the skin – on top of that, if left untreated, it can rapidly spread to other parts of the body (and in rare cases can even appear on unexposed areas like internal organs and on the eyes themselves).
The tricky part of skin cancer is that it can sometimes disguise itself on the skin in the form of resembling common freckles or moles. Not all sun-related spots lead to cancer but they can mask progressing skin cancer if left undetected, so we recommend patients start with a self-body exam at home to familiarize themselves with blemishes that exist and make them more apt to noticing any changes that occur over time. New spots are going to still appear as we get older and that’s okay, it’s just when those new, or even pre-existing spots, start to change in shape, color, and size that it should be examined. It can be hard to know just which spots on your body have been there already and which are new, so the best way to eliminate any chances of underlying skin cancer concerns is by scheduling annual skin cancer body checks with your provider.
Prevention from the start is your best defense against skin cancer. Keys tips for protecting your skin include:
- Wearing sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 any time you’re outdoors
- Always reapplying sunscreen after sweating and being in water
- Avoiding the sun when it’s at its strongest – generally between 10am and 4pm
- Avoiding indoor tanning beds (Did you know that according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, just 10 or more visits to the tanning bed in a lifetime increases your risk by 34%?)
- Wearing light, protective clothing like long sleeves and pants
- Covering the face by wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses whenever exposed to direct sunlight because even parts of the eyes can develop skin cancer
- Scheduling annual body checks for the entire family
In the event skin cancer is detected, a skin cancer treatment plan will be planned with your provider based on your individual case and needs. We offer a variety of skin cancer treatments at our practice that quickly and effectively target skin cancer before it gets advanced and potentially life-threatening. If you’re interested in scheduling a skin cancer check or learning more about our services and treatments, don’t hesitate to contact Abraham Family & Geriatric Medicine today.