The start of summer brings about warm weather and time spent outdoors. But with those long days in the sun comes risk of too much sun exposure. As someone who has had experience with skin cancer for the last 30 years, I now know how important it is to not only protect your skin starting at an early age, but also what to do if you notice anything unusual on your skin.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. There are three main types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer because it has a tendency to spread. While melanoma often develops within an existing mole on your skin, it can also appear suddenly. Sun exposure or use of tanning beds increases one’s risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. Yet, while most cases of melanoma are attributable to UV exposure, other factors like genetics and immune system deficiencies can also increase one’s risk of melanoma. Melanoma can present on the skin in many ways, often times appearing as a new mole or a spot with a jagged border. Squamous cell carcinoma is typically slow-growing; however it can grow deep and injure nerves and blood vessels as a result. It can present in a number of ways on your skin, from a rough red scaly patch to an open sore, to a brown spot that looks like an age spot. Basal cell carcinoma tends to grow slowly and seldom spreads and typically looks like a shiny, raised and round growth.
Despite the typical descriptions of these skin cancers, skin cancer does not always present itself like the articles and photos show. Unfortunately, my husband and I both have had several experiences with skin cancer; fortunately, we have advocated for ourselves and sought referrals to dermatologists to have our skin checked when we noticed something that either didn’t look normal or something that wasn’t healing. If you take only one thing away from this article, let it be this – you know your skin best. If you notice any changes on your skin, even if these spots don’t follow the typical descriptions, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for a skin check.
May was Skin Cancer Awareness Month and several great resources were shared to help you protect your skin. Learn how to perform a skin self-exam, learn the ABCDEs of melanoma, and read about how you can protect your skin this summer.
Cynthia Jones is a Wellness Strategy Manager, Mid-market Strategy Specialist, for Vitality Group. Over the past year, she became a grandmother to an Australian Shepherd named Walter who she has fallen head over heels in love with. Cynthia enjoys drawing and watercolors. When the weather cooperates, you will find her gardening, bicycling, or at the dog park.