Q: I’ve Always heard that sunscreen use is important, but what else do I need to do to protect my skin?
A: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans develops skin cancer. However, 70-80% of skin cancer is preventable.
One of the best actions you can take is to perform monthly skin cancer self-examinations. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer. These lesions start as a sore that doesn’t heal or a change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain. Less common is melanoma. To spot melanomas, follow the A, B, C, D, E rule:
Asymmetry: When looking at a mole, if you were to draw a line through its center, ideally, the two halves would be symmetrical. Asymmetry indicates that the mole should be evaluated by a doctor.
Border: Benign moles have smooth and even borders; a melanoma tends to have uneven or scalloped borders.
Color: Most benign moles are one shade, while melanomas can have many different shades of brown, tan, or black, or even red, white, or blue.
Diameter: Take note if a mole has grown to over ¼ inch.
Evolving: Any change in a mole is a reason to see a doctor, whether it’s a change in size; shape; color; or symptoms, such as itching or bleeding.
If you notice any areas of the skin that need follow-up, you can schedule a skin assessment with a primary care physician, a dermatologist, or a plastic surgeon. Seeing a plastic surgeon can be particularly beneficial, as they can provide care from assessment to excision to reconstruction.
Most people who develop skin cancer have had damage from sunburns and sun exposure. Using tanning beds also increases the risk of skin cancer because tanning beds contain ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) rays.
Sunscreen is the number one way to prevent skin cancer. When choosing sunscreen, look for an SPF of 30 or higher, and buy one that is specified as broad-spectrum and water-resistant. Use it daily and re-apply every hour.
-Jaleh Eslami, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon with Kettering Physician Network at Kettering Plastic Surgery Center
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