May is the month when we turn special attention to staying watchful and preventing skin cancer. It’s a wonder we need a specific month to raise this awareness because skin cancer 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.
A Little Bit You, A Little Bit Me
Awareness, prevention, and detection are a team effort when it comes to skin cancer. There is a lot that each of us can do to be safer from the harmful effects of sun exposure, and to stay watchful for alarm signs. But skin cancer can wear many masks and costumes, so your physician is the key component for completing your safety system.
What Makes It the Most Preventable Cancer?
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, like 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.
The Shadow Rule
Hats, sleeves, and sunscreen are certainly easy enough, and familiar advice, too. Selecting the specific time 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.
Our Own Eyes Are Not Enough
Awareness starts with our own eyes. Giving ourselves a once-over each every month is the recommended frequency. Getting a look at every inch may be trickier than it sounds, so fortunately the American Cancer Society has diagrammed an efficient system for this self-exam that doesn’t call for us all to master yoga.
Our own eyes are an essential beginning, but they don’t complete the job. A yearly skin cancer screening from your physician is important. The reasons for this include the variety of types of skin cancer, and the disguises that each of them can wear. After all, 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? 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 at every so often, is your key to enjoying “the sunny South” with peace of mind. Call us at 843-815-6468.