Early Detection and Smart Sun Protection Habits Can Reduce the Risks of Skin Cancer

With the school year ending and summer arriving, many of us will be spending time in the sun either at the beach or by the pool, and still others will head to a tanning salon to get that bronzed glow. However, excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays is one of the leading causes of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with more than three million cases diagnosed every year, according to the American Cancer Society. Most of these cases are basal or squamous cell cancers, but about two percent are malignant melanoma, a much more deadly form that accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths. Of the 76,000 people diagnosed with malignant melanoma, about 10,000 will die from it each year.

Duane P. Moores, M.D., of Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Hematology & Oncology, a strategic affiliate of Southeast Georgia Health System explains that unlike some other cancers, there are no definitive guidelines for how often most people should be screened for skin cancer. However, being alert to the signs of skin cancer are very important for early detection and a more successful outcome. He recommends checking your skin regularly for any suspicious moles or skin markings using these ABCDEs of skin cancer evaluation:

A for Asymmetry – One side does not match the other.

B for Border – The edges are ragged, irregular, blurred or notched.

C for Color – The color or shade is not the same throughout.

D for Diameter – The size is greater than 6 millimeters, or the size of a pencil-eraser head.

E for Evolving – It has changed in size, shape or color.

If you discover moles or markings with any of these characteristics, seek medical attention from your primary care physician or a dermatologist. He also recommends that anyone with a family history of malignant melanoma get a thorough annual skin evaluation from a physician.

While melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, Dr. Moores says there is good news about treatment. "Many malignant melanomas can be treated with just surgery if they are detected early. For those that are more advanced, immunotherapy is the treatment of choice. We are now are able to identify certain genetic mutations, and if a patient with advanced skin cancer has one of those mutations, we have targeted therapies that give the patient a much higher chance of successful treatment."

He also recommends the following sun protection measures:

Stay out of the sun when it is strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Wear protective clothing and a hat, as well wrap-around sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them.

Fully cover all body areas with sunscreen, preferably with an SPF of 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours when outdoors.

Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.

Southeast Georgia Health System will offer free skin checks during its first Community Health and Wellness Fair on Saturday, June 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the new Brunswick High School, 3885 Altama Avenue, Brunswick, Ga. The Community Health and Wellness Fair will include a variety of other health screenings and educational opportunities for the entire family with most being offered free of charge. For more information about the Community Health and Wellness Fair, visit sghs.org/healthfair, or call 912-466-5770.