Are You Safe from the Sun?

Are You Safe from the Sun?

Sun safety is the key to the prevention of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin malignancies. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month—a perfect time review what you can do to prevent getting this type of cancer.

As spring turns to summer, our thoughts turn to trips to the beach, days at the pool and long days at the park with family. Unfortunately, that fun outdoor time comes with an increased risk for melanoma. Melanoma comprises only four 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.

Detecting Melanoma

Have your doctor check moles and other skin spots annually. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a monthly self-check as well.

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.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

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, without worrying about skin cancer.

  • 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.

In addition to protecting the skin with sunscreen and protective clothing, certain foods have been found to help prevent cancer. A diet rich in antioxidants can be beneficial in cancer prevention. Add these foods to your diet:

  • cranberries
  • blueberries
  • blackberries
  • tomatoes
  • grapefruit
  • broccoli

Each of these foods has been found to have properties—vitamin C or lycopene, for example—that have the potential to lower the risk for certain types of cancer, according to many studies. Research has also shown that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, might have benefits when it comes to preventing cancer cell growth.

The Skin Cancer Foundation website has more detailed guidelines on preventing skin cancer that are age specific and include more information on sunscreen.

Melanoma Tips

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