As the temperatures warm, the North Carolina beaches beckon us for long days of swimming, boating, and sunbathing. Active outdoor pursuits can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Like so many other things in our lives, though, bingeing on sunshine is not healthy.
Sunburns aren’t just painful; they are the body’s way of telling you that you’ve damaged your skin. Repeated sunburns as a child or as an adult are a risk factor in acquiring skin cancer. Those with fair skin and light-colored eyes are more susceptible to sunburn.
Among skin cancers, melanoma is by far the deadliest. This is because an untreated melanoma is more likely to spread to other systems in other areas of the body.
The good news is that treatment of melanomas can be successful if they are identified in the early stages. Check your skin monthly for any changes, and if you need help, ask a friend or family member to check hard-to-see areas, such as your back.
Look for these characteristics to help identify melanoma:
The ABCDEs of Melanoma
A-Asymmetrical Shape. Melanoma lesions are often irregular in shape.
B-Border. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders difficult to define.
C-Color. The presence of more than one color or uneven distribution of color is a warning sign.
D-Diameter. Melanoma lesions are often greater than the size of a pencil eraser.
E-Evolution. If a mole has recently changed in size or color, bring it to the attention of a dermatologist.
The five-year survival rate for melanoma is about 97 percent if it is caught in Stage I. The rate decreases with time, however, and Stage IV patients have a five-year survival rate of 15 to 20 percent.
In 2015, NHRMC’s Zimmer Cancer Center treated 210 cases of melanoma, and 46 of those cases were Stage II, III, or IV. Our team of cancer specialists is committed to providing excellent care to anyone who needs our services.
But we’d rather not. So do what you can to prevent skin cancer.
Here are some guidelines from the Melanoma Research Foundation for protecting yourself and your children:
- Limit sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are at their peak.
- Cover yourself – Wide-brim hats and long sleeve shirts offer more protection than a bikini.
- Use “broad spectrum” sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays and have SPF value of 30. Make sure put it on 15 minutes before you go outside, and remember to re-apply every two hours.
- If you have any questions about a spot on your skin, be sure to ask your family physician or dermatologist. If you do have a cancerous spot, you will want to get treatment started as soon as possible.