November 2013

Medical Section: Avoid Skin Cancer

Author: Jessi Dolnik

Treat your skin with TLC
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) states that more people are being diagnosed with melanoma. It notes that melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer among young adults ages 25-29 years old, and white males 50 years of age and older. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates approximately 76,690 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013. The ACS also states that approximately 9,480 are expected to die of melanoma.

Like the less aggressive skin cancers, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, melanoma is almost always curable when detected in its early stages. Excessive sun exposure, particularly sunburn, sun lamps, and tanning beds are the most important preventable causes of melanoma, especially among light-skinned individuals. The Skin Cancer Foundation states that heredity plays a major role, noting about one in 10 patients with a family history of melanoma has a 50 percent greater chance of developing melanoma. The AAD notes that indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma by 75 percent, and females ages 15-29 tend to develop melanoma on the torso, possibly due to high-risk tanning behaviors. It has been noted that melanoma rates are tending to increase with age, especially among persons in their 80s.

Atypical moles (dysplastic nevi), which may run in families, and a high number of moles, can serve as warnings for people at higher risk for developing melanoma. Melanoma may suddenly appear, but it may also begin in, or near a mole or another dark spot in the skin. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on the body so that any change will be noticed. People with more than 50 moles are at greater risk for melanoma.

Moles larger than a quarter inch in diameter (size of a pencil eraser) and flat moles with irregular borders and different colors can become cancerous in time. These should be watched for changes and checked by a dermatologist regularly. Redheads and blondes, and people with blue or green eyes are at an increased risk of developing melanoma.

Warning signs of melanoma include: changes in the surface of a mole; scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or in the appearance of a new bump; spread of pigment from the border into a surrounding skin; and change in sensation, including itchiness, tenderness or pain. Dark-skinned people can develop melanoma, especially on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under nails, or in the mouth. The most important step in prevention is to have any changing moles examined by a dermatologist so that early melanoma can be removed while still in the curable stage. Early detection is essential as there is a direct correlation between the thickness of the melanoma and the survival rate. The warning signs of melanoma can be easily remembered by the pneumonic “ABCDEs” as shown below:
• Asymmetry
• Border irregularity
• Color variability
• Diameter
• Evolving

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen. Research by the American Academy of Dermatology recommends regular use of sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30 or higher for everyone, but especially adults and children with fair skin, light colored eyes and hair, and freckles. According to the AAD, the FDA requires sunscreen to be stable at its original strength for at least three years.

Children get an average of three times more sun exposure than adults, because they spend a lot of time outdoors. For maximum protection, they should wear long-sleeved T-shirts, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and avoid the mid-day sun.
Tips to avoid skin damage and possible skin cancers include:
• Limiting the amount of time you are in direct sun between 10a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Wearing sunglasses with both UVA and UVB blocking lenses to protect your eyes from melanoma.
• Wearing wide-brimmed hats to protect your face.
• Wearing tightly-woven, non-cling clothing serves as the best protection, although most clothing absorbs or reflects UV rays.
• Applying broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 15-20 minutes before going out into the sun, and reapplying every two hours and after prolonged swimming, vigorous activity, sweating or toweling off. Remember to cover ears, nose, neck, feet and hands with sunscreen. Use extra caution near water, snow and sand because they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, increasing the chance of sunburn. Lips should be protected by using lip balm with SPF 30 or greater.
• Doing a self-exam and seeing a dermatologist for a complete skin exam once or twice a year will help in the prevention of skin cancer.

??Jessi Dolnik, MA, CCC-SLP is a pediatric speech-language pathologist & founder of
Lowcountry Therapy Center & Lowcountry Dyslexia Center.??

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