Why is protecting yourself from the sun important?

July is UV awareness month.

Unfortunately, many people unknowingly walk around every day with skin cancer. Knowing the ABCs of skin cancer could save your life and the lives of those you love.

Learning this simple mnemonic could be the difference between a simple curable fix, or unfortunately losing a life over excessive sun exposure.

DID YOU KNOW: Not wearing complete UV protective sunglasses can lead to cataracts, even at a very early age. Additionally, each time that you are sunburned places you at higher risk for developing skin cancer in the future.

What are the ABCs of skin cancer?
This mnemonic helps people to learn which specific characteristics of skin moles can be concerning for skin cancer

A. Asymmetrical: If you were to fold the mole in half would it fit equally on both sides?
B. Irregular Borders:
Are the borders of the mole smooth, round, and oval shaped or “squiggly” and not in a distinct circular shape?
C. Color: Is the color uniform in the mole, or does the mole have different colors?
D. Diameter: Is the diameter or width of the mole larger than the size of a pencil eraser?
E. Evolving: Has your mole changed over time in size, shape or color?

If your skin mole has any of the following characteristics, it is highly recommended that you are immediately evaluated (preferably by a dermatologist): asymmetrical, irregular borders, different colors, diameter larger than a pencil eraser, or is evolving over time.

What is the “Iceberg Effect” concerning skin cancer?

Think about the iceberg that sank the Titanic. It was not what the crew members saw on the surface that sank the ship, it was the large amount of ice underwater that caused the devastation. Skin cancer can have the same effect. What you see on the surface may be only a small portion of the actual entire skin cancer mass in your body.

So, what should you do?
1. Full Body skin checks by a dermatologist at least once per year
2.  Monthly full-body skin checks at home to check for any new or changing moles.
3. Wear sunglasses with complete UV protection
4. Wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) even while under the shade or cloudy days (reapply every 2 hours when wet and sweating)
5. Try to reduce your exposure to the sun by using shade, wearing a hat, and clothing that can stop the sun from directly hitting your skin.

More Resources
American Cancer Society:

https://www.cancer.org/healthy/be-safe-in-sun.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety.htm