Protect yourself from melanoma.

May is Melanoma – Skin Cancer Awareness Month

April showers bring May flowers – and the beginning of warmer weather and summer-like days. We all know the sun does wonders for our moods, our lawns, and our activity levels. While we definitely need a daily dose of vitamin D – it helps prevent osteoporosis and helps our bodies and bones absorb calcium – a little sun goes a long way. Be smart, be safe and protect yourself from skin cancer – especially melanoma. Melanoma is the least common but most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can appear on otherwise normal looking skin or on a preexisting mole that suddenly changes size or color, develops irregular borders, or begins to itch, bleed, swell or hurt. For women, melanoma is more likely to appear on the arms and legs.

Who is more likely to develop melanoma?

People who are fair skinned with blue or green eyes, are redheads or have freckles are more susceptible to melanoma skin cancer. A family history of melanoma is a determining factor as is excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays and sunburn – especially as a child.

Prevent melanoma and other forms of skin cancer

Avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun – always wear at least SPF 15 sunscreen. Even if it is waterproof, reapply often – especially after swimming or sweating. Wear clothes – long, light clothing will cover your skin and hats and sun glasses will protect your head and eyes. Do not forget to apply sunscreen to your lips, too. Stay away from tanning salons – there is no such thing as a safe ultraviolet light. Fill up on vitamin E – it helps protect you from damage caused by UV rays. It is available in supplement form and found in foods such as asparagus, green leafy vegetables, raw nuts, wheat germs and some natural oils.

Examine your skin regularly, melanoma can become advanced without producing any symptoms.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a full body exam at least every three months. You will need a full length mirror, a hand held mirror, good light and this ABCD checklist – Asymmetry – Both sides of a mole should be shaped similarly. Border – The border or edges of a mole should be smooth, not blurred or ragged. Color – Tan, brown, and dark brown are normal. Red, white, blue and black are not. Diameter – A mole larger than 1/4 inch in diameter or one that is growing is suspicious. Skin cancer affects more people in the United States than any other form of cancer. If found early, it is treatable. Make it a habit to regularly check your skin for anything that looks different or abnormal. Get to know your skin – every inch of it. Dr. Hessel is your go-to source for concerns about your skin or your risk for melanoma. Do not wait, call Dr. Hessel today.