The Importance of Solar Protection
If you think skin cancer is no big deal, think again. Although skin cancer can seem like little more than a pesky problem by having to get minor growths and moles removed, it’s way more than skin-deep.
Did you know there are three main types of skin cancer? The most common are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma, in addition to rarer types like Merkel cell carcinoma, lymphoma of the skin, and Kaposi sarcoma. Skin cancer is also the most common type of cancer in the world.
Basal and squamous cell skin cancer are most often found in areas exposed to the sun, like the head, neck, and arms, but they can also appear on other parts of the body. These types of skin cancer are most common and oftentimes treatable. However, they can appear in a variety of ways and with symptoms that differ per person. Some common ways basal and squamous cell skin cancer can present include:
- Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas that look like a scar
- Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal, or that heal and then return
- Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center, which might contain abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a tire
- Raised reddish patches that may be itchy
- Small, pink or red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown, or black areas
Melanoma is a less common form of skin cancer, but it has a tendency to grow and spread. Melanoma typically present as a mole or raised area. Most people have moles of some kind on their body, and many of these moles are harmless. However, it is important to remember and enforce the ABCDE Rule. If any of these are true, seek a medical professional:
- Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other
- Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred
- Color: The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue
- Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this)
- Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color
Here are some tips to reduce your skin cancer risk:
- Stay indoors during high-risk times. The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Daylight Saving Time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) are the most hazardous for ultraviolet (UV) exposure in the U.S. UV rays from sunlight are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.
- Don’t skimp on the SPF. Wearing sunscreen every day is a vital part of reducing your risk of skin cancer. Keep Devita’s Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+ in your purse or bag and always be prepared.
- Try not to burn. A sunburn is a form of radiation burn from prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays. When you get a sunburn, your skin turns red and becomes painful. If the burn is severe enough, swelling and sunburn blisters can appear. As it heals, your skin will begin to peel and itch as your body tries to rid itself of the sun-damaged cells.
- Play doctor. It’s important for you to know your body. As mentioned above, melanoma typically present as a mole. Take note of your body’s moles and marks, and be sure to keep track of any changes and report to your medical professional for further diagnosis. You should also see your physician annually for a routine check-up.
- Ditch the tanning bed. Skip the tanning bed at all costs, as they have been proven to increase the risk of skin cancer. Even if you haven’t touched a tanning bed in 10 years, be aware of the lingering risks. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, using tanning beds before age 30 increases your risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent.
Keep these tips in mind as the summer heat rages on and be aware that solar protection and a proper skincare routine should be implemented year-round.
By Amanda Harvey.
Amanda Harvey earned her BA in English Literature from Arizona State University in 2013. She has worked as an editor at several Valley publications and is currently in an editorial marketing role at a local technology start-up. Her passions include buying local, sustainability, animal advocacy, and the craft brewing scene.