Many of us reapply sunscreen to avoid the appearance of pesky sunburns and premature wrinkles, but sometimes we forget that skin cancer is a very real side effect of protection-less sun exposure. People with low melanin levels and plenty of outside activity are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer, the most serious being Melanoma.
As we age, the appearance of freckles, age spots and moles seem to be natural and frequent, but it is important to have them checked by a dermatologist for skin cancer signals. If skin cancer cells are caught early, it is easier for a doctor to remove the cancerous site with a lower risk of the cancer resurfacing. Among other symptoms, dermatologists will check to see if your mole is asymmetrical, irregularly shaped, strangely pigmented, suspiciously large (bigger than a pencil eraser) and whether it has evolved since your last visit. Though these are not sure signs that a mole is cancerous, they are general indicators that further precaution might need to be taken.
Signs of melanoma also include a raised surface, firm texture and increasing size. The earliest stage of the disease is called the radial growth phase where the cancer lies on the upper layers of the skin without affecting the blood vessels. At this stage, doctors can usually fully remove the cancerous site with surgery; but after the radial growth stage passes, the cancerous site is capable or growing both horizontally and vertically, affecting the surrounding tissue and sometimes the blood stream.
Should the skin cancer site develop into melanoma, more invasive treatment options are available like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. According to skincancer.org, 120,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the US every year. While Melanoma is not exceedingly common, it is the leading cause of skin cancer related deaths, and treatment varies according to the severity of each case.
Though many factors contribute to skin cancer and melanoma, it is important to remember that you can often prevent it from the outside. Remember to wear SPF while you’re exposed to UV rays, or wear skin protective clothing. Know your body and be aware of any moles that have changed size, shape or color between your dermatologist visits so your dermatologist can treat skin cancer in the earliest stages. Also, wear polarized sunglasses when you’re outside to protect your eyes from UV rays and possible melanoma that can occur behind the eye.
Jhin, Marie, M.D. Asian Beauty Secrets: Ancient and Modern Tips from the Far East. San Francisco, CA: Bush Street, 2011. Print.
“What Is Melanoma?” Melanoma. The Skin Cancer Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 June 2013. <http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma>.