The lifesaving awareness that is our best protection from melanoma is the purpose of Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention Month. Skin cancer is the most widespread cancer among us. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed and treated in the U.S. each year than all other forms of cancer combined. So, each May is set forth by the American Academy of Dermatology to raise awareness about the importance of early detection. It is vital to catch it early, because one form of skin cancer, melanoma, is particularly deadly, and it doesn’t respond well to treatment. Early detection offers, by far, the best chance to survive it.

Making self-examination routine is the first step; yes, it starts with our own eyes. Giving ourselves a once over every month is the recommended frequency.  Getting a look at every inch may be trickier than it sounds, but fortunately we don’t all have to master Yoga, because the American Cancer Society has diagramed an efficient system for this self-exam.

But this important exam is not for your eyes only. In fact, a yearly skin cancer screening from your physician is essential, too, because the variety of types of skin cancer, and the disguises that each of them can wear are too much for the untrained eye. We shouldn’t bet our lives on our own ability to see the difference between a mole, a cyst, a zit, a freckle and a cancer.  Much less should we rely on our own diagnostics to tell the difference between a common basal cell carcinoma and a life-threatening melanoma.

Most Widespread Yet Most Preventable

The fact that skin cancer so dominates the number of cancer cases each year is balanced somewhat by the fact that it is also considered the most preventable form of cancer. There are at least eight things we can do – and not do – to increase our chances of avoiding skin cancer, as listed by The Skin Cancer Foundation. 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 and making a new routine.

Hats, sleeves, and sunscreen are certainly easy enough, and familiar advice, too. Not just limiting the tine of our sun exposure, but also selecting the specific time of day we go outdoors is a more unusual suggestion, enjoying our outdoor activities before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. It is a powerful tool in improving our chances of staying skin cancer free, and rather than remembering the numbers and watching the clock, somebody figured out a much simpler way to accomplish it.

Seeking Safety in a Shadow

It 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.

Your professional full-body scan, an easy once-over, renewed at least every year, is your key to enjoying life here in “the sunny South” with peace of mind. Just schedule an appointment with us at Global Family Medicine for a skin cancer screening. Call us at 843-815-6468.