Laying out by the pool, hanging out at an outdoor festival or going for a run is enjoyable at first, but if you forget to regularly apply your sun screen, all of those activities could be life threatening. Skin cancer is, unfortunately, the most common type of cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says that about 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed with basal and squamous skin cancers each year. In addition, approximately 91, 000 new melanoma skin cancer will be diagnosed every year. That’s why it is very important to get skin cancer screenings from your doctor and do regular checks on yourself.
Individuals with a reduced immunity or other risk factors for skin cancer such as a strong family history should make sure to get regular skin exams by the doctors to find skin cancer early. However, everyone should be checking their own bodies at least once a month to note any changes in moles, freckles and blemishes.
“The best time to do this simple monthly exam is after a bath or shower, stated the ACS website. “Check any moles, blemishes or birthmarks from the top of your head to your toes. If you look at your skin regularly, you will know what’s normal for you.”
The ACS lists several guidelines for how to give yourself a skin cancer screening. Start by looking in the mirror and checking your face, ears, neck, chest, stomach, underneath breasts, underarm, both sides of your arms, tops and palms of your hands, and in between your fingers and fingernails. Next, sit down and check the front of your thighs, shins, tops of your feet, in between your toes and toenails. Then, use a hand mirror to look at the bottoms of your feet, calves, backs of your thighs, buttocks, genital area, lower and upper back, and the back of your neck and ears. Finally, use a comb to part your hair so you can check your scalp.
When you are doing these screenings, look for new growths, spots, bumps patches or sores that don’t heal after several weeks. Some warning signs include spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin, redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole, change in sensation (such as itchiness, tenderness or pain), and change in the surface of a mole (like scaliness, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a lump or bump). A full list can be found on ACS website.
If you see anything that concerns you, contact your doctor right away. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable.”
Skin cancer doesn’t have to be scary. With regular checks (and plenty of sunscreen!), you have the highest chance of prevention and early detection, so you can go back to enjoying your summer again!
Sydni Ellis grew up in the great state of Texas, where she learned to love chips and salsa and hot weather. She has a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of North Texas, and she currently works in the College Communications, Marketing and Outreach office at Richland College. Some of her passions include writing, traveling and re-reading the Harry Potter Series every chance she gets. In the spirit of spontaneity, Sydni lives her life with a pen in one hand and her video camera in the other; ready to capture the next great story.