April showers bring much more than May flowers: They herald the upcoming summer seasons and all the outdoor activities associated with them. From swimming at the beach to gardening, longer days and warmer weather make millions of Raleigh Triangle residents head outdoors. However, with these outdoor activities comes the risk of skin cancer.
What is Your Risk of Skin Cancer?
Each year, there are more than 3.5 million new skin cancer cases in the U.S., according to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. As with most other cancers, early detection and prevention are crucial to survival.
SKIN CANCER RISK #1: LIVING IN A TROPICAL AREA
Ultraviolet (UV) light—the main component of sunlight – is the culprit behind genetic damage to skin cells which can lead to cancer. In general, those who are exposed to UV light for longer periods of time are at greater risk. Therefore, those who live in areas with bright sunlight year-round may have a higher incidence of skin cancer than those who live in other parts of the world. According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, residents of sunnier states such as Arizona and North Carolina have twice the risk of skin cancer as those of states such as Minnesota. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
SKIN CANCER RISK #2: LIGHT SKIN TONE
Those with fair skin are much more likely to develop skin cancer than those who are African-American or those with darker skin tones. Skin types are measured on the Fitzpatrick Skin Type scale, ranging from very fair with light hair (Type I) to very dark (Type VI). Wonder where your skin fits in? You can take this handy quiz from the Skin Cancer Foundation to find out.
SKIN CANCER RISK #3: YOU HAVE A LOT OF MOLES
While a mole itself is not cancer, certain types of moles do increase a person’s chance of getting melanoma. However, the chance of any individual mole (called a nevus) turning into cancer is very low. Still, anyone who has a lot of moles should have their skin checked regularly by a physician.
SKIN CANCER RISK #4: YOU HAVE HAD MELANOMA BEFORE
Those who have had melanoma are at a higher risk of having another cancerous spot on their skin.
SKIN CANCER RISK #5: FAMILY HISTORY OF MELANOMA
There is a genetic component to skin cancer, and an estimated 10 percent of those with melanoma have a close relative who has also had skin cancer.
MAKE AN APPOINTMENT
If you are ready to find out if you are at risk for skin cancer, make an appointment with a general practitioner at Raleigh Medical Group, Cary Medical Group or Raleigh Adult Medicine. We are here to help you live a life of wellness.
What are the ABCDEs of Skin Cancer
The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention recommends that people with the risk factors listed carefully monitor their sun exposure (using sunscreen where appropriate), have regular skin exams by our Raleigh or Cary physicians and learn the ABCDEs of skin cancer in order to detect it in its early stages. The ABCDEs are:
A = ASYMMETRY
Malignant (cancerous) moles are not symmetrical, meaning the two sides of the mole are different. (An illustrated example may be found here.
Cancerous moles have irregular borders and tend to look uneven.
If the mole seems to have a variety of colors and different shades of brown (as well as red, white, or blue), it may be cancerous.
Non-cancerous (benign) moles are usually smaller. Any mole that is larger than an erase at the end of a pencil is suspicious.
Benign moles look the same year after year, while those that are cancerous may change in shape, size, or color.
Regardless of whether or not you have one of these five signs of skin cancer risk, a regular skin cancer check should be a part of your wellness physical exam. For more information, speak with your physician.
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