Sun safety is extremely important during the summer months. Being out in the sun increases your Vitamin D levels, but it also increases your chance of developing a life threatening cancer.
Dr. Richard Hope of Lubbock Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center says melanoma is the most serious skin cancer.
“We are finding about five a week in our clinic,” says Hope. “If we don’t find melanoma early it absolutely can kill you. As a matter of fact it kills about one person an hour in the United States.”
Dr. Hope says finding a questionable spot on your skin can be concerning. Ultimately a biopsy will diagnose melanoma, but there are good ways to evaluate it before seeing a primary care physician or dermatologist.
“One of the things we try to explain to the general public is there is the A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and now E’s of melanoma. A is an asymmetrical mole. A mole that is not the same on both sides. B is the borders are irregular, like jagged it’s not smooth. C would be various colors in a mole. If a mole is all a uniform color, maybe it’s ok, but if there are different colors, red, blue, black, even white in a mole, that is a sign that that mole ought to be checked. The D stands for diameter and that is about six millimeters. So that is about the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil. So if a mole is bigger than that and meets all those criteria it is certainly very concerning. E stands for evolving or evolution, something that is changing, something that looks different than it did a month or two ago. Try to get it checked.”Richard Hope M.D. Dermatologist
Fortunately, skin cancer is 98 percent curable if you catch it early and have it surgically removed.
Like any issues with you health, prevention is the key. Dr. Hope was adamant about being sun smart by avoiding tanning beds that induce skin cancer including melanoma and wearing sunblock during any outdoor activities.
The rule of 30 is good to remember when it comes to sunscreen. Using an SPF 30 or higher and applying it 30 minutes before any outdoor activities will greatly reduce the risk of skin cancers. It is also recommended to reapply sunscreen every two hours to avoid sunburns.
Dr. Hope explained that sunburns are very bad for your skin, one or two bad sunburns as a youth doubles your risk of melanoma later in life.
You can take care of a bad sunburn by cooling your skin down with cool rags and ice. Non-steroidal drugs are best for sunburns. Take an anti inflammatory for pain like Motrin or Advil.
Dr. Hope encourages you to not fear the outdoors but to stay sun safe and don’t wait several months or years to check a questionable spot.
Melanoma can arise on any part of your body — even places that are not exposed to the sun. A melanoma skin check will include the examination of all your skin.