Vital Signs: Protect your skin from cancer

By Anna Kellaher
Columnist

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is estimated that 20 percent Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is the most preventable risk factor. Make sure to protect yourself from the sun by using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply every two hours.

Use broad spectrum
sunscreen with an SPF
of 30 or higher (Flickr). 

The AAD recommends wearing hats, sunglasses and long sleeves to protect your skin from the sun. Don’t be fooled by cloudy days — up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can break through the clouds and reach your skin. Be especially careful at the beach, since water and sand can reflect and intensify UV rays.

While prevention is always the best option, early detection is also critical. According to the AAD, Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. A spot on your skin may be melanoma if it follows the warning signs, known as the “ABCDEs”.

“A” stands for “asymmetry,” meaning one half of the mark is different than the other. “B” stands for “border” — if the spot well-defined or if the edges irregular or scalloped. “C” stands for “color.” Melanoma may be different from regular marks on your skin and can be brown, black, white, red or blue. “D” stands for “diameter” — Melanoma is detected as usually greater than 6 millimeters, or the size of a pencil eraser. Lastly, “E” stands for “evolving.” Pay attention to any new spots on your skin to see if they are changing in size, shape or color.

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