CONSUMER HEALTH

Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer

Summer is fast approaching, leading more people to take advantage of the outdoors. But dermatologists caution that too much natural or artificial ultraviolet light at any time can raise your risk for skin cancer – about 1 in 5 people are diagnosed during the course of their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We sat down with Dr. Gary Brauner, chief of dermatology at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center who offered insight into preventing skin cancer.

Q: How do I know if a spot or mole should be checked out? Are there more than one type?

Dr. Brauner: Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer with the most typical being basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which often affect the face, lips, ears, neck, and hands, and generally don’t spread if found and treated early.

The third type, and also the most concerning, is melanoma. Melanomas are also often found on parts of the body not exposed to the sun and can spread deeply and widely if not caught early.

We use an acronym called the ABCDEs to differentiate between concerning and benign moles or marks.

  • Asymmetry: Uneven moles or spots
  • Borders: Irregular edges
  • Color: Multiple colors
  • Diameter: The size of a pencil eraser
  • Expanding: A mole that changes and grows

However, I always tell my patients that if they find something that makes them worried, they should make an appointment and come to the office. When found early many skin cancers are treatable and curable, and we use the least invasive treatment approach possible.

Q: Who is most at risk?

Dr. Brauner: Anyone, of any skin color, and even millennials, can get skin cancer. It is usually caused by too much exposure to the sun and artificial ultraviolet ray sources like tanning beds. Some common risk factors include:

  • Light skin, eyes, blond or red hair
  • Those who burn or freckle easily
  • Age – typically those 50+
  • Family history
  • Blistering sunburns
  • Exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet light
  • Weakened immune system
  • Multiple moles on skin

Q: Are there any misconceptions about skin cancer?

Dr. Brauner: There are several, but three in particular come up the most:

Misconception 1. Skin cancer is a summertime problem.
Skin cancer can occur at any time of the year, even in the winter. Year-round skin protection is recommended.

Misconception 2. People with darker skin don’t have to worry about skin cancer.
 Research shows those with darker skin not only get skin cancer but may be diagnosed at a later stage when it’s harder to treat. Everyone should wear sunscreen, even people with darker skin and those who tan easily.

Misconception 3. Sunscreen isn’t needed on days when it isn’t sunny.
Water, snow, sand, even clouds reflect UV light and can increase your chance of getting a sunburn and subsequently your risk for skin cancer.

Q: Do you have some tips?

Dr. Brauner: Sunscreen – everyday. A good rule of thumb is to:

  • Get a yearly skin checkup
  • Wear a hat outdoors – a circular floppy rim not baseball-type cap
  • Wear protective clothing when outdoors
  • Seek shade whenever possible- use umbrellas at the beach and never ever sunbathe!
  • Wear sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB and reapply generally throughout the day

Posted on July 19, 2017

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dermatology Gary Brauner skin cancer