May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The official beginning of summer is fast approaching, and it is never too early to begin thinking about proper skin protection.

May is National Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Anyone — young or old, and regardless of skin tone — can get skin cancer, so it is important for everyone to learn how to keep your skin healthy and cancer-free.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in all age groups (University of Michigan, 2015). In fact, it is estimated that between 40 to 50 percent of Americans who live to the age of 65 will develop skin cancer at least once, and over two million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancers each year. While skin cancer is extremely common, however, with prevention and early detection, it is not typically fatal.

While there are several types of skin cancer, I have outlined a few of the most common types.

Basal cell cancers appear as growths or lesions on the skin that are slow growing and rarely spread cancer to other areas of the body. About 2.8 million basal cell carcinomas are diagnosed in the United States every year. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is rarely fatal, but it is still important to have any basal cell carcinoma checked by a doctor and potentially treated and removed.

Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) appear as skin overgrowth which becomes crusty or appear to be an open sore, and about 700,000 cases are diagnosed every year. SCC is more likely to spread to lymph nodes and has potential to become deadly as well.

Another type of skin cancer is melanoma, a serious form of cancer that arises from the melanocytes in your skin—these are what produce your skin color. This form of cancer often appears as a mole or brown spot. Melanoma is curable in its early stages; however, it is still the deadliest form of skin cancer. About 76,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma annually.

Know your body and your skin, and if you see any changes, contact a doctor. You should check your skin from head to toe monthly to look for new or changing moles and spots.

Keep in mind the ABCDE signs of melanoma while doing a self-check:

Asymmetry -- malignant (potentially cancerous) moles may have an asymmetric shape.

Border -- irregular and uneven borders can signal a malignant spot.

Color -- malignant moles can have uneven coloring.

Diameter -- a mole may be malignant if it is larger in diameter than the eraser head of a pencil.

Evolving -- any mole that changes over time should be inspected by a doctor.

Skin cancer is highly preventable, so following these steps is crucial to protecting yourself from this disease. Sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 should be applied daily, particularly if you plan to be in the sun all day. Avoid getting tans and sunburns, and remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming.

Make sure to wear a hat and sunglasses when it is especially hot and sunny, and seek out shady spots to cool off and stay out of direct sunlight. These simple tips alone can help to prevent skin cancer and to keep you looking and feeling your best during the summer!

Visit or contact the local Extension Office at 653-8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events.

Upcoming Events

May 29 -- Extension Office closed for Memorial Day holiday.

June 1 – Sewing 4-H workshop, Extension Office, 6:30 p.m.

June 6 – Photography 4-H workshop, Extension Office, 6:30 p.m.

June 6 – Wood Science/Craft 4-H workshop, Steve Lien shop, 6 p.m.

June 8 – Fine Arts 4-H workshop, York Automotive Building, Fairgrounds, 9 a.m.

June 8 – Public Speaking/Demo 4-H workshop, York Automotive Building, Fairgrounds, 10 a.m.

June 13 – Electricity 4-H workshop, Harris Hall, 9 a.m. – noon.

June 13 – Cake Decorating 4-H workshop, Harris Hall, 6-8 p.m.

June 15 – Genealogy 4-H workshop, Extension Office, 6:30 p.m.