Protect against skin cancer this summer

Brandie Richardson @B_lifestyles

Skin cancer affects more than two million Americans every year, as it is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Though this cancer affects all ages and races, men are three times more likely to develop it than women.

According to St. Elizabeth Hospital's Dr. Ira Thorla, Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is most common among young adults ages 25 to 29. While Melanoma is the deadliest, other forms such as Basal Cell Carcinomas and Squamous Cell Carcinomas are the most common as they are caused from cumulative sun damage and become more common as a person ages.

In a 2012 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 68,000 Americans were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin, including 39,673 men and 28,080 women. In the same year, over 9,000 died from the cancer.

When in the sun, damage can occur in as little as 15 minutes, which is why taking precautions is especially important. To reduce the risk of skin cancer, seek shade as often as possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and a hat with a brim that covers your entire face, ears and back of the neck, put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 or higher and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Thorla noted that skin cancer is very curable, especially when detected early. Skin examinations, whether done by yourself or by a doctor, are essential.

Everyone, despite age, should have an annual skin examination,” Thorla said. “The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the examination to be performed from head to toe. If a person has a history of previous skin problems, particularly skin cancers or precancerous lesions, the examinations should be more frequent as recommended by their healthcare provider.”

When self examining pigmented skin lesions, the ABCDE’s should be used; asymmetry, irregular borders, variation in color, diameter of 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser) and continually evolving lesions, Thorla said.

If a pigmented lesion exhibits any of these characteristics it should be further evaluated by a health care provider. Any bleeding, non-healing, continually changing or uncomfortable skin lesion should also be further evaluated," he said.

According to St. Elizabeth’s website, the most important warning sign of melanoma is new or changing skin lesions, particularly changes to the skin that occur over a short time frame. The hospital recommends self-examinations monthly.

"People who regularly check moles on their skin may have a lower risk of developing advanced melanoma," the hospital said.

For upcoming skin cancer screenings in the area, visit marybird.org or steh.com.