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Skin Cancer Awareness

It's the most common cancer in the world and involves your largest organ. If you guessed Skin Cancer, then you are right! The good news is that you can SEE it and it is preventable! May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!

Basal Cell, Squamous Cell, Melanoma, oh my! These are the top three skin cancer types. Here's what they are and what you can do to prevent them!

Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common and least concerning of the three but you still want it gone if you notice it. They arise from the epidermis (outermost layer of your skin). They can look like shiny bumps, open sores, or red patches. This type of cancer rarely metastasizes (spread to other places of the body) but can cause scarring.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common. It arises from the squamous cells of the epidermis. It is more likely to spread than Basal Cell Carcinoma so early diagnosis and prevention is the key. They can look like warts, open wounds, or scaly red patches.

Melanoma. Likely you 've heard of it, and for good reason. It's the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is more likely to spread than the others. It comes from the melanocytes (pigment-producing cells). They can be hard to treat and need to be caught early. They often appear black or dark brown but can also appear pink, white, red, purple, or blue. Melanoma is rare but it is known to be more deadly in African Americans.

What can be done to prevent skin cancer? Sun protection! Avoiding and protecting yourself from ultraviolet light is the key. Did you know there are two types of ultraviolet rays that contribute to skin cancer? Ultraviolet ray A (UVA) is responsible for skin aging and Ultraviolet ray B (UVB) is responsible for skin burning. Sunscreen should be used when you are in the sun.

Do you know what SPF stands for? Sun Protection Factor. You need at least a SPF 15 for everyday use but at least a SPF 30 if you plan to spend a lot of time outside. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours. Tanning beds should be avoided as they are known to cause skin cancer. You should also dress accordingly and take advantage of shaded areas.

I hear you asking, "but what about Vitamin D?". The truth is you shouldn't let the sun be your only source of Vitamin D. It is likely you are not getting enough from the sun and the benefits do not outweigh the risks. The safer recommendation is to get the Vitamin D you need through supplements, oily fish and foods fortified with Vitamin D such as milk.

Early detection is key and can be done through monthly self-exams and annual dermatology exams. If you are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer you will need to be more diligent in your exams. Examples of high-risk persons are those with fair skin, family history, atypical moles, sunburn, tanning, photosensitivity, and prolonged UV ray exposure.

Skin cancer is highly curable if found early. Treatment includes various types of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. However, always remember the best treatment is prevention.

What ways can you better take care of your skin?

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