Skin cancer awareness can save your life


Reduce your risk, know the signs and get screened

Summer is in full swing, and with vacations and endless outdoor activities at our fingertips in Austin, it’s important to practice sun-safety to avoid skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with one in five people expected to be diagnosed with some version of the disease during their lifetime.

What exactly is skin cancer? Skin cancer is caused by abnormal growth of the skin’s cells. There are many different types of skin cancer, but the three most common are Basal cell skin cancers, squamous cell skin cancers, and melanomas. Although skin cancer often occurs on skin exposed to sun, it can also develop on areas that don’t ordinarily encounter sunlight.

Although skin cancer can affect people of all skin types, tones and colors, you can reduce your risk by following some simple precautions. Tracy A. Kramer, RNC, FNP-C, Ascension Medical Group Providence at Lake Shore, shares the below tips to reduce your risk:

  • Use sunscreen with sun protection of 30 or more, with UVA and UVB protection.
  • Avoid UV lights from the sun and tanning beds.
  • Stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear sun protective clothing that cover the arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat that shades the face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.

Get screened

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 9,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. However, spotting skin cancer signs early at home, in addition to regular skin checks by your doctor for preventative care, can save your life.

Kramer recommends monthly self-screenings, and visiting your dermatologist every six months if you have a history of skin cancer.

Additionally, pay attention to a change or growth on the skin, sore that doesn’t heal, and change in a mole on the skin. These are all potential symptoms of skin cancer.

Feeling overwhelmed? Use your ‘ABCs’ to spot skin cancer early:

  • Asymmetrical. Is the mole/spot an irregular shape with two spots that look very different?
  • Border. Is the mole/spot regular or jagged?
  • Color. Is the mole/spot unevenly colored?
  • Diameter. Is the mole/spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • Evolving. Has the mole/spot changed?

Early detection and treatment can help prevent the spread of skin cancer to other parts of the body. When treated early, most skin cancers can be cured. However. if left untreated, skin cancer can cause local destruction, spread through the body and even cause death. Patients with changing moles, dry, scaly patches and new skin growth may be indications of abnormal cell growth and should be examined by a health care professional.