May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).


What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

Skin cancers can look quite different from one person to another due to skin tone, size and type of skin cancer and location on the body. Some of the most common signs to look for include a new or changing mark on your skin, asymmetry, a crooked or jagged border on a mole, multi-colored spots or moles, and a  spot that is more than 6 millimeters wide


What Causes Cancers of the Skin?

The warm May weather encourages people to spend more time outdoors. Too much ultraviolet radiation from the sun and indoor tanning booths are two of the most common causes of skin cancer. The good news is that if skin cancer is caught early, your dermatologist can treat it with little or no scarring and high odds of eliminating it entirely. Often, the doctor may even detect the growth at a precancerous stage, before it has become a full-blown skin cancer or penetrated below the surface of the skin.


Some habits you can use to help prevent skin cancer include:

  • Seek shade when possible.
  • Use sunscreen (SPF of 30 or higher).
  • Wear appropriate clothing (sunglasses, hat, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and skirts) when possible.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Check your skin for all the spots (moles, freckles, and age spots) on your body.  If you notice any new or changing spots, contact a health care provider.
  • Know your family history of skin cancer.
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