May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month
As the weather warms up, the Norwalk Health Department is spreading the word about skin cancer prevention and early detection. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States—more than all other cancers combined. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases but causes a majority of deaths from skin cancer.
Skin cancer can be more easily cured if it is detected early. See your physician every year for a professional skin exam. In addition to an annual examination from your physician, you can do your own head-to-toe self-examination every month. Look for new moles, changes to existing, moles, or something that looks suspicious. Look for your “ABCDEs” to detect a suspicious lesion on your skin:
- Asymmetry: The two halves of the mole do not match each other.
- Border: The borders of the mole are uneven or oddly shaped.
- Color: The mole is multiple colors, such as several shades of brown, black, or another color.
- Diameter: The mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser (about a 1/4 inch or 6 mm).
- Evolving: The mole changes in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or another new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting occurs.
If you find a mole on your skin that has these qualities or seems suspicious in any other way, see a doctor.
You can also take steps to protect yourself and prevent skin cancer:
1. Avoid exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sun and indoor tanning lamps. (UV rays cause most types of skin cancer.) When you spend time outside, seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is strongest. Wear clothing that helps cover you up, such as a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
2. Avoid UV tanning booths/beds. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UV radiation from tanning machines is known to cause cancer in humans, and the risk increases the more you tan. Those people who make just four visits to a tanning salon per year can increase their risk for melanoma by 11%.
3. Use sunscreen every day. Sunscreens with broad-spectrum protection (UVA and UVB) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended, according to the American Cancer Society. Apply generous amounts of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
For more information about skin cancer, visit Visit http://www.skincancer.org/ or the American Cancer Society.