Now that summer is here, doctors are warning too much sun can cause devastating skin cancer. About 10,000 Americans die from melanoma skin cancer every year.
When it comes to skin cancer, early detection usually makes the difference between life and death. That means learning how to recognize suspicious moles and getting to the doctor quickly if you see one.
Melanoma begins in moles which can be easily removed. But if left untreated, cancer can grow from the mole to vital organs.
Dr. Crystal Moore, a Chesapeake, Virginia pathologist told CBN News how ordinary people can learn to recognize suspicious moles.
"The vast majority of skin cancers are usually identified by the patient themselves," she said, "And knowing good techniques for analyzing our skin is as easy as A,B,C,D,E."
The ABCDEs of Melanoma:
- Asymmetrical: One half looks different than the other half.
- Borders are uneven: The edges are raggedy, difficult to define, not smooth.
- Color is varied: More than one color or uneven distribution of the same color can be a sign of melanoma.
- Diameter is larger than 6 millimeters: This is about the same size as a pencil eraser.
- Evolving moles are suspicious: these are moles that have changed, such as the color, size or feel.
"It's not what you remember last month or the month before," Dr. Moore explained, "If it's bothering you, if it's itchy, if it's irritated, make sure you bring that to the attention of your physician."
9 out of 10 melanoma cases are caused by sun exposure and tanning beds. Here's how to protect yourself:
5 Tips to Help Avoid Skin Cancer:
- Avoid tanning beds altogether
- Before going into sun apply 30 SPF sunscreen or higher
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after getting wet
- Limit sun exposure to early morning or evening
- Wear a hat and protective clothing
The Flip Side to Avoiding the Sun
Doctors say people who avoid the sun should take a Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is essential to good health. Our bodies convert sunlight into Vitamin D. Although some foods contain Vitamin D, we can't get enough of it from diet alone. Doctors estimate as many as three out of four Americans are Vitamin D deficient. This can lead to serious health issues.
Vitamin D Deficiency Risks:
- Immune Disorders
As we age, our bones lose density, making them brittle and more susceptible to breaks. Calcium, which is in many dairy products, can fortify our bones, but we need Vitamin D in order for our bodies to absorb calcium. Doctors recommend a supplement containing at least 500 IUs of Vitamin D per day.
Although too much sun exposure puts us at risk for skin cancer, health experts say some sun is good for us. Knowing how much depends on a number of factors.
The Safe Amount of Sun Exposure Depends On:
- Skin Type
- How Much Skin is Exposed
- Time of Day
- Distance from the Equator
As a general rule, the safe amount of time to spend in the sun is half the time it takes for you to burn.