Melanoma Awareness Month: Protecting Your Skin and Preventing Skin Cancer
In honor of May being Melanoma Awareness Month, we at CosmetiCare are doing what we can to spread information about melanoma, how to prevent it, and how to recognize it. If you’re unfamiliar with melanoma, it’s a form of skin cancer that can become fatal if it’s not diagnosed and treated quickly enough. When it comes to fighting melanoma, knowledge is power. If you and your loved ones understand how to protect your skin from this condition and recognize it in its early stages, you will greatly reduce your likelihood of encountering late-stage melanoma.
What Causes Melanoma?
Although researchers are still uncovering the exact causes of melanoma, we do know the basics of how the disease forms. Melanoma develops when the melanocytes, which are the cells that give your skin its tan or brown color, begin to grow out of control. Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body, but they most commonly start on the chest or back in men and on the legs in women.
Melanoma is more common in people with lighter skin tones, but it can technically affect anyone. There are several factors that could increase your risk of developing melanoma, including:
- Regular exposure to UV light
- History of severe sunburns
- Lighter skin, hair, and eyes
- Having many moles on your body
- Having a personal or family history of melanoma or any type of skin cancer
- Weakened immune system
How Can You Prevent Melanoma?
Although there’s nothing you can do to entirely eliminate the possibility of developing melanoma, there are certainly things you can do to reduce your odds. If you’re proactive about keeping your skin protected, you can give yourself a great chance of avoiding this serious illness throughout your life.
Some of the best ways to prevent melanoma include:
- Wearing Sunscreen - Being religious about wearing sunscreen when you go outside is perhaps the very best thing you can do to lower your chances of developing melanoma. Even during the winter and on cloud-covered days, UV rays can still get through to your skin and cause damage. Ideally, you should make a point to always wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. You should also consider trying sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, as it can provide extra protection against skin cancer. It’s especially important that you wear sunscreen after certain aesthetic skin treatments, such as a HydraFacial or a Cosmelan peel. After these kinds of treatments, your skin is particularly vulnerable to UV rays and needs to be fully protected.
- Avoiding Tanning Beds - Although using a tanning bed may be tempting as an easy way to get a tan, it’s simply not worth it. Using a tanning bed regularly has been shown to significantly increase the odds of developing melanoma. For this reason, melanoma has become one of the most common forms of cancer diagnosed in young adults.
- Avoiding Peak Sun Hours - Between 10 am and 4 pm, the sun’s UV rays are at their most intense. If possible, you should try to avoid sun exposure during these hours whenever you can, and seek somewhere shady or indoors during this part of the day to minimize your risk of melanoma.
- Never Intentionally Exposing Your Skin to the Sun - Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a “healthy” tan. If you truly want to minimize your chances of developing melanoma, you should never intentionally expose your skin to direct sunlight for a prolonged period.
Detecting Melanoma Early
If you develop melanoma, having it diagnosed early is very important for your overall prognosis. The sooner you catch the disease, the better your odds will be of curing it completely. So, how do you recognize that you might have a developing melanoma?
Typically, melanoma will take the form of a dark, unusual blemish on your skin. The easiest way to remember what these melanomas look like is to remember the “ABCDE” rule:
- A = Asymmetry: Usually, melanomas will have an asymmetrical appearance.
- B = Border: Most melanomas will feature uneven, scalloped, and/or notched borders.
- C = Color: While a normal mole will typically be one shade of brown, a melanoma will often have multiple colors or shades of brown, tan, or black.
- D = Diameter: If your skin has a lesion with a diameter of more than ¼ inch, it’s a warning sign that you may have melanoma.
- E = Evolving: Normal moles generally don’t change in appearance. So, if you notice a blemish that’s evolving in shape, size, color, or elevation, it could be melanoma.
At least once per year, you should perform a thorough self-examination of your skin to look for any warning signs of melanoma. If you have any increased risk factors, it’s also wise to undergo yearly examinations performed by a dermatologist.
Contact CosmetiCare to Learn More
At CosmetiCare, we not only offer a variety of treatments, such as our IPL Photofacial that can treat sun damage and benefit the health of your skin, but we also offer several wonderful types of sunscreen. If you’re interested in learning more about how to protect your skin from melanoma, simply contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled providers.