Skin Cancer Awareness

Melanoma is the most serious and fastest-growing type of skin cancer. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation reported that over 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, and skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. Although this is a scary statistic, the good news is that skin cancer is completely preventable!

Melanoma can be caused by UV radiation from the sun, tanning booths or sun lamps. About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Adults get it most often, including older adults, but children and teenagers can get melanoma, too. Men get it more often on their torso, head and neck, while women tend to get melanoma on their arms and legs.

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Melanoma Risk Factors

Risk factors for melanoma include having fair skin, light-colored eyes and freckling, or burning easily in the sun. You are also at a higher risk if you have had one or more severe sunburns in your life, get lots of UV light exposure, or live closer to the equator or at a higher elevation. People who have more than 50 ordinary moles are at increased risk, too, as are people with a family history of melanoma or those who have a weakened immune system.

Protect Yourself From Melanoma

A no-brainer way to protect against melanoma is by wearing sunscreen. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go out in the sun, and reapply when you come out of the water or every two hours. Also try to limit your time in the sun (take breaks in the shade!) and wear your sunglasses—UV rays can harm your eyes, as well as your body. One of our favorite eco-friendly brands is Coola.

Check Your Skin

Everyone should check their skin regularly and watch for changes. If you find melanoma right away and get it treated early, it’s usually curable. But once you have it, it can be hard to treat—and it spreads.

Use a full-length mirror, plus a hand-held one, in a room where there’s plenty of light.

How to Do a Proper Self-Exam:

Start at your head and move down to your feet. Check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Use a comb or blow dryer to move your hair so you can check your scalp, or have someone else look for you. Check the front and back of your body in the mirror. Raise your arms and look at your left and right side. Check your upper arms, forearms (on all sides), palms and fingernails. Check the front, back and all sides of your legs. Check the skin on your buttocks and genitals. Sit down and look at your feet, toenails, soles and the spaces between your toes.

Here’s what to look for:

  • A new mole that looks different than the others
  • A new red, or darker, flaky patch, which may be a little bit raised
  • A mole that has changed in size, shape, color or feel
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A new firm bump that is flesh-colored

A great tip is to memorize what “ABCDE” stands for. This is an easy way to identify characteristics of unusual moles that may be melanoma or other skin cancers.

  • A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles that are irregular in shape, such as having two very different-looking halves.
  • B is for border. Look for moles that have irregular, scalloped or notched borders.
  • C is for color. Watch for changes in color, growths with many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
  • D for diameter. Watch for new growth in a mole that’s larger than ¼ inch (about 6 mm, or approximately the size of an eraser).
  • E for evolving. Look for changes over time, like a mole that gets bigger, changes shape or color, or develops new signs or symptoms such as itchiness or bleeding.

A cancerous mole may have all of these signs, only a few or just one. If you are concerned about a mole, we invite you to visit either of our Albany or Saratoga spa locations for a complete skin analysis.