We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: SPF is your BFF. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, but because it’s the most common type of cancer, it’s important to practice prevention measures – and know the signs of skin cancer – at every time of year.
First Things First: What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is when skin cells grow and multiply in an uncontrolled, unorderly way. Normally, new skin cells form when cells grow old and die or when they become damaged. When this process doesn’t work as it should, a rapid growth of cells (some of which may be abnormal cells) results. Sometimes these cells may be noncancerous (benign), or cancerous, which may spread to other tissues if not caught and treated early.
There are three main types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and Melanoma.
How Common is Skin Cancer?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, and 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer within their lifetime. Melanoma rates have risen especially rapidly over the last 30 years, and it’s estimated that more than 1 million Americans are living with Melanoma today.
How to Spot Skin Cancer
According to The Cleveland Clinic, where skin cancer develops is tied to the types and names of skin cancers.
- Squamous cells: These are flat cells in the outer part of the epidermis. They constantly shed as new cells form. The skin cancer that can form in these cells is called squamous cell carcinoma.
- Basal cells: These cells lie beneath the squamous cells. They divide, multiply and eventually get flatter and move up in the epidermis to become new squamous cells, replacing the dead squamous cells that have sloughed off. Skin cancer that begins in basal cells is called basal cell carcinoma.
- Melanocytes: These cells make melanin, the brown pigment that gives skin its color and protects your skin against some of the sun’s damaging UV rays. Skin cancer that begins in melanocytes is called melanoma.
While we recommend scheduling regular skin exams if skin cancer is a concern for you, you can use the “ABCDE rule” to look for some common signs of Melanoma.
- Asymmetry: One part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.
- Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
- Diameter: The spot is larger than ¼ inch across – about the size of a pencil eraser – although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
- Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Skin Cancer Prevention
Because most skin cancers are caused by harmful UV rays from the sun, the best way to protect yourself against skin cancer is to avoid too much sunlight and sunburns. If you are planning to spend time outside, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher at least 30 minutes before you head out. Wear hats to shade your face and ears, and look for clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor label for extra protection. UV rays are usually strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so consider taking that beach walk in the morning or evening.
Our providers use cutting-edge treatments like microdermabrasion, microneedling, and laser treatments to reduce and reverse the effects of sun damage. These treatments require little to no downtime, so you can get back out there sooner (with sunscreen, of course). Call us at 337-235-6886 to schedule a consultation or skin exam with one of our providers.