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Stay Safe From Skin Cancer During Summer

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and it’s a perfect time to get to know some important facts about skin cancer before summer vacations, hitting the beaches and outdoor fun. Melanoma is the deadliest of skin cancers and will account for approximately 7,600 deaths in 2022. But more importantly, when detected earlier, it’s very easily treatable and in most cases curable.

Prevention is the most important step to staying healthy. It’s advised to stay out of the sun during the hottest time of the day, which is usually around noon. Make sure to wear sunscreen and reapply at the necessary intervals to maintain protection. Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your ears and nose.

It’s very important to put sunscreen on kids as well before playing outside and coming in and out of the water. You can wear light protective clothing to cover up when it gets too hot. Gentlemen, remember your hats, and ladies, your fashionable big brim hats.

The most significant risk reduction for skin cancer is to avoid tanning beds. Just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing melanoma by 20%, squamous cell cancer by 67% and basal cell cancer by approximately 30%. It’s a myth that using a tanning bed before a beach vacation will protect your from harmful effects of the sun or prevent you from developing a burn. If you have used tanning beds frequently in the past, regular skin checks would be valuable to detect skin cancers early.

It’s important to have a skin check if you are at increased risk for skin cancer or have a family history of skin cancer. This can be done by your primary care physician, dermatologist or skin surgeon. People at high risk may also benefit from total body photography and dermoscopy skin evaluations to be able to detect skin cancers early.

Total body photography allows for serial photographic imaging of your skin over time to readily detect new moles or changing moles. All of these screenings are available at our Center for Skin Cancer and Melanoma at WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital. The earlier we catch an abnormal mole the more likely it is to be cured.

We follow our ABC’s when it comes to checking out a weird looking mole to see if it needs a biopsy. A is for asymmetry: if we divide a mole in half normally it should look similar on both sides, if not, its asymmetrical and potentially worrisome. We look at the (B)orders of the mole to make sure they are smooth and regular. We look for any moles with dark (C)olors or moles with changing colors.

D is for diameter: moles larger than a pencil eraser can be worrisome. And E is for evolution, any mole undergoing changes! An annual skin check is a great prevention to keep you and your skin healthy!

It’s wonderful to have fun in the sun, just be safe about it! Have a healthy summer!

Rose Hardin, MD, of WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital, is a board-certified surgeon, specializing in breast and skin cancer. She has completed a highly specialized fellowship in melanoma and breast surgery at The Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. She completed her breast surgical oncology fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Hardin graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical education from the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, Manhattan, NY, and earned her medical degree from the SUNY Health Science Center, Brooklyn, NY. The WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital Center for Skin Cancer and Melanoma offers state-of-the-art skin cancer screening and treatment.

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