It’s a wonder we need a specific month to raise awareness of preventing skin cancer because it is, by far, the most common form of cancer. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed and treated in the U.S. each year than all other forms of cancer combined.
In May, we try to help people avoid being embarrassed to death. Such an old-fashioned phrase – we wonder sometime if anybody is embarrassed by anything these days. But the human tendency to hesitate having anybody look them over head to toe could literally cost a life, because melanoma can be deadly if it is not caught early. A regular skin cancer screening from your family physician is one of the three big ways to help prevent dying from it. So, let’s forget the embarrassment, at least for an hour, and let the doctor do what doctors do; consider your doc the private eye of skin cancer prevention.
Those three big preventions, by the way are: (1) limit your sun exposure, (2) use an adequate sun screen regularly – habitually, and (3) get a skin cancer screening regularly from your physician.
Most Common and Most Preventable
The frightening fact that skin cancer so dominates the number of cancer cases each year is balanced-out somewhat by the fact that it is also considered the most preventable form of cancer.
The Skin Cancer Foundation lists at least eight things we can do – and not do – to increase our chances of avoiding skin cancer. None of these measures is hard to do, but some of them call for new habits, such as hats and sunscreen. Surprisingly, it is not the difficulty that stands in our way of adopting these safe practices, so much as it is stepping beyond what we are used to doing, wearing, and watching.
When Your Shadow is Shorter Than You Are
Hats, sleeves, and sunscreen are certainly easy enough, and familiar advice, too. Selecting the specific hours we spend outdoors is a more unusual suggestion, but a powerful tool in improving our chances of staying skin cancer-free. An interesting tip is called “the shadow rule.” If your shadow is shorter than you are, then you are in the peak intensity of the sun’s harmful (UV) rays. When your shadow is longer than you are, then your UV radiation exposure is much less. Of course, it may be simpler for most of us to remember that enjoying our outdoor activities before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. is the right idea.
We Need More Than Our Own Eyes
Awareness starts with our own eyes, but it doesn’t end there. Giving ourselves a once-over each month is the recommended frequency. Getting a look at every inch may be trickier than it sounds, so fortunately the American Cancer Society has diagramed an efficient system for this self-exam that doesn’t call for us all to master Yoga.
But do we really want to bet our lives on our own ability to see the difference between a mole, a cyst, a zit, a freckle, and a cancer? Even with good self-exams, a yearly skin cancer screening from your physician is essential. The reasons for this include the variety of types of skin cancer, and the disguises that each of them can wear. Much less should we rely on our own diagnostics to tell the difference between a common basal cell carcinoma and a life-threatening melanoma.
Why not schedule an appointment with us at Global Family Medicine for a skin cancer screening? This easy once-over, renewed every so often, is your key to enjoying “the sunny South” with peace of mind. Call us at 843-815-6468.