Trips to the beach, days at the pool and long days at the park with grandchildren are all a part of summertime tradition and culture. As temperatures and time spent outdoors rise, unfortunately so does the risk for melanoma. Soaking up the sun doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt, but being aware of melanoma — and doing your part to prevent it — is essential for a truly enjoyable (worry-free) summer.
Melanoma comprises only 4 percent of skin cancers, but is responsible for 74 percent of skin cancer deaths — making it one of the deadliest forms of skin malignancies. In 2009, about 70,000 Americans developed invasive melanoma. Although it tends to occur frequently in families, presenting a hereditary element, melanoma is more often triggered by intense, intermittent sun exposure.
Most of us have some skin growths or spots in our lifetime, and nearly all of these are normal. Spots and growths that are not normal and could be dangerous are typically easy to spot, as they possess some very important characteristics. It’s always best to have your health care practitioner check moles and other skin spots, but there’s an easy way for family care givers to check for potential problems at home, too. Keep an eye out for the ABCDs of melanoma:
Asymmetry: Drawing a line through the middle of the spot or lesion does not yield equal halves.
Border irregularity: The spot or growth’s perimeter is uneven or notched.
Color variation: As dangerous skin spots grow, they may become deep brown or black — they can even turn red, blue or white.
Diameter (or size): Any skin growth that is 6 mm wide or larger (about the size of a pencil eraser) is considered risky.
Outside of these four characteristics, any growth or spot that changes, itches or bleeds is abnormal and should be checked.
Preventing Melanoma With Your Diet
According to WebMD, a diet rich in antioxidants can help prevent cancer. Foods you should keep on your plate include cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, artichokes and potatoes. Lycopene (found in tomatoes) has also been proven to decrease the risk of certain types of cancer. Load up! Lastly, Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and has anti-cancer properties. Broccoli, peppers and citrus fruits are all high in vitamin C.
Preventing Melanoma With Sun Safety
Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin malignancies. Simply being aware and taking these necessary precautions to fight harmful UV rays will make it easy for you to sit back, relax and enjoy the warm-weather activities that summertime brings.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt and/or sunglasses with UV protection when possible.
- Use sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater) daily, and apply frequently when you're outside for extended periods of time.
- Give your skin a self-exam monthly and schedule a professional exam yearly.