An Ounce of Prevention: Skin Cancer Awareness MonthBrandermill Woods independent living angle

An Ounce of Prevention: Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

It was a long winter here in Central Virginia, so everyone at Brandermill Woods is excited by the spring weather. Our residents may not have to worry about lawn maintenance, but they love to get out for exercise and activities. But with the sunlight and outdoor fun comes the risk of UV rays damaging our skin. No matter what age you are, 16 or 60, skin damage can pose a major health problem. Fortunately, skin damage is also easy to prevent and doesn’t have to ruin your summer fun.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so in recognition of awareness and prevention, here are some recommendations about self-care and prevention.

Prevention Starts Today

No matter how many sunburns you’ve had over the years (remember those heady days of the 1970s, when people tanned with baby oil?), you can and should start taking care of your skin today. The great thing about skin protection is that it doesn’t require expensive gym memberships, fancy cooking skills, or hours of free time.

All you need to do is put on sunscreen before you leave the house. Pay particular attention to your nose and cheeks, the back of your neck, and your hands. Don’t forget your feet if you wear sandals or open shoes. Beyond sun screen, you can wear light clothing to cover up, or consider a stylish sun hat. And of course, keep an eye out for protective shade when you’re out and about.

Warning Signs to Look For

Because skin damage is visible, a self-exam will help you spot potential problems before they turn into a major problem. It’s a good idea to scan your body once in a while to look for aberrations, moles, freckles, and scrapes that haven’t healed.

Moles and freckles are part of life and are usually harmless, but take note of how they look. As you examine them, there are four warning signs that tell you when to see a doctor—the ABCDE’s of melanoma. If any of these warning signs appear, be sure to let your doctor know:

Asymmetry: If you draw a line through the middle of a mole, both sides should mirror each other. Asymmetry is a warning sign for melanoma.

Border: Benign moles have smooth and even borders, whereas early melanomas have uneven, notched edges.

Color: Most moles are all one color, often brown. If the mole has different shades of brown, tan, black, red or blue, it could be a sign of melanoma.

Diameter: Is the mole larger than the eraser on your pencil? Benign moles are usually smaller, whereas melanomas tend to be larger.

Evolving: Benign moles tend to look the same over time. But if a mole starts to change shape, size or color, that’s a sign to let your doctor know.

Visit a Dermatologist

When you own an automobile, you make sure you keep the oil changed and the tires rotated. Likewise, our bodies need occasional inspections and tuning up—the annual flu shot, the semiannual teeth cleaning, a trip to the eye doctor. Dermatologists should be on your list of annual checkups, because professionals know what to look for and can spot potential problems early. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Now, with spring in bloom and winter in the rearview, put on your sunscreen and enjoy the warm weather!