By Richard Bezozo, M.D., president of MoleSafe
Now that winter is upon us and the snowflakes have begun to fall, we often think back to the summer months filled with countless hours of sunshine. While looking back on those hot summer days, if you can remember receiving one or more bad sunburns, you may be at risk for melanoma. Studies show that one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than double your chances of developing skin cancer later in life and repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major factor for most skin cancers, like melanoma, due to the damage it causes to your cells. This winter be proactive about your skin’s health by monitoring for changes in your skin and enroll in an early detection melanoma screening and surveillance program.
Performing self-checks on your skin and scheduling regular exams can help find and treat melanoma and other skin cancers effectively. Here are some tips on how to monitor your skin this winter:
Continue your sunscreen regimen through the winter. Although the winter sun is not warm, it is still very dangerous and can be harmful to our skin. UV rays are intense on both clear and cloudy winter days, making it essential to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, specifically to your face, hands, neck and scalp, at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. Due to the sun’s reflections off the snow and conditions that occur at high altitudes, be sure to apply a sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB radiation when you go skiing and snowboarding, to reduce your risk of sunburns and other long-term effects, including premature aging of the skin and even skin cancer.
Check your own skin. You are the only person who sees your body every day, so be proactive in your skin health and start examining your body from head to toe and everywhere in between. Make sure you perform your self-check in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Also, keep a hand mirror handy to help look at areas that are hard to see, especially your back and scalp. Performing a skin self-exam each month is a small time investment in what could end up being a life-saving procedure.
Learn your skin patterns. The first time you perform a self-check, spend time carefully examining the entire surface. Be sure to learn the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles and other lesions on your skin, so you will better be able to notice any changes during your next exam. Take note of any new growths and bring them to your physician’s attention at your next screening.
Know your moles. Normal moles are typically an evenly colored brown, tan or black spot on the skin. Most people have moles, and most are harmless. However, a warning sign of melanoma is a mole that is changing in size, shape or color.
Learn your ABCDEs. ABCDEs in melanoma detection represent asymmetry, border, color, diameter and evolving. Any changes in these characteristics can indicate an affected area and calls the need for immediate attention.
Enroll in an early detection screening and surveillance program. By enrolling in an early detection screening program, you can have peace of mind that your skin will stay healthy. Early detection of melanoma cannot be overstated, because when melanoma is found and treated in the initial stages, your chance of long-term survival is very high. Early detection screening programs are an ongoing way to ensure that you taking the most cautious measures to protect the skin you’re in.
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so make skin health a priority during all months of the year, including these cold, snowy, winter months. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about enrolling in an early detection screening and surveillance program, please visit www.molesafe.com.
Richard Bezozo, M.D., is the president of MoleSafe, the world’s most advanced melanoma screening program.