Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among both men and women in the US. When it is caught early, it is easiest to treat. The most preventable cause of skin cancer is when your skin is exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) light either from sun or artificial sources like tanning beds.
A melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that looks like a mole or birthmark. Follow the ABCDE rule by notifying your primary care physician if you notice one of the ABCDEs.
Asymmetry: one side of a mole or birthmark is not the same as the other.
Border: the edges of a mole or birthmark are uneven, ragged or blurred.
Color: the color is not the same throughout the entire mole or birthmark. It changes from one area to another and may have different shades of brown and black. Some areas may have patches of pink, red, white or blue.
Diameter: the length of the mole or birthmark across is longer than a pencil eraser (¼ inch across).
Evolving: you notice the size, color or shape of the mole or birthmark has been changing.
Some skin cancers, like basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are often caused by sun exposure and sunburn. They may be pink or red and swollen, or crusty. They may bleed or look like an open sore. They appear on sun exposed areas like the scalp (in men), nose and arms.
To lower your skin cancer risk, protect your skin from the sun and avoid indoor tanning.
- Stay in the shade during mid-day hours when the sun is the strongest
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
- Wear hats that shade the face, ears and back of neck
- Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays to reduce the risk of cataracts and other eye problems
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection every two hours and after swimming, sweating and toweling off
Talk to your doctor about skin cancer each year during your Adult Wellness Visit. To schedule a wellness visit with a primary care physician of your choice at Union Health Center, call 212-924-2510.