Texas Oncology Urges Texans to Save Your Skin
Outsmart the Sun and Prevent Skin Cancer
Now that school is out and the first day of summer is upon us, the cancer care experts at Texas Oncology remind Texans to “save your skin” by outsmarting the sun when spending time outdoors. Although the most prevalent cancer in the United States today, skin cancer is also the most preventable. The majority of the more than 1 million annual U.S. cases of skin cancer are sun-related.
“The skin is the largest organ in the body and should not be taken for granted. In states like Texas where sun exposure can be intense for many months, we can take an active role in preventing skin cancer,” said Dr. Meghana Bhandari, medical oncologist at Texas Oncology. “Melanoma can be deadly, but it is curable if diagnosed early and has not spread to other parts of the body.”
Nationally, melanoma, the most deadly of all skin cancers, will account for more than 60,000 cases of skin cancer in 2008 and more than 8,400 of the more than 11,000 skin cancer deaths during that time. Texas ranks third in the nation for incidence of malignant melanoma, and one in three Texans will develop skin cancer in his or her life.
“Prevention starts by knowing what the risk factors are and taking measures to protect against ultraviolet rays,” said Texas Oncology’s Bhandari. “In addition, because early detection leads to higher survival rates, you should be mindful of changes in your skin and have them examined by a physician.”
People with fair skin or who are outdoors frequently are at higher risk. For example, people who work outdoors are susceptible to high exposure to ultraviolet rays. Parents should also remember that even children need protection at a young age from the sun.
However, everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer and should take precautions. In fact, approximately 7 percent of all skin cancer cases occur in patients of Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American, or Native American descent.
Texas Oncology physicians recommend that people at risk check their skin regularly. Often, the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using the ABCD method to help detect melanoma:
- A = Asymmetry: One side of the mole does not match the other in size, shape, color, or thickness.
- B = Border: The edge or border of the mole may be irregular.
- C = Color: The color of the mole is not uniform, various shades of brown and black may be present.
- D = Diameter: Skin cancer melanomas are usually larger than 6 millimeters in diameter, but they can be smaller.
Changes in the skin should be reported to your health care provider right away. You may be referred to a dermatologist, who specializes in diseases of the skin. Experts recommend the following preventative measures to “save your skin:”
- Protect your skin by wearing a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher every day. Reapply every two hours or according to the product label.
- Limit sun exposure during 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when ultraviolet light is strongest.
- Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirts, long pants or skirts, as well as sunglasses with at least 99 percent ultraviolet absorption to protect your skin and eyes.
- Newborn babies should be kept out of the sun. Babies should wear protective hats in the sun. Be sure to apply sunscreens on children over six months of age.
- Review your skin closely every month from the top of your head to your toes. See a physician if you notice any changes.
“Saving your skin is easier with some simple measures to outsmart the sun. Avoiding sun exposure when possible, and taking precautions such as using sunscreen go a long way in preventing skin cancer,” said Bhandari.