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Skin Cancer Prevention

Make your summer motto "Slip, Slap, Slop":  Slip on a shirt, slap on a hat, and slop on plenty of sunscreen.  Summer sun exposure can not only make you uncomfortable, but can greatly increase your risk of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer affecting adults.  And even though a tan may be flattering in the short term, in the long run, sun exposure increases your likelihood of wrinkles. 

Cases of skin cancer are on the rise, and it is not just because of better reporting methods. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma with about 600,000 cases reported a year; there are another 400,000 reported cases of squamous cell cancer and 45,000 cases per year of the much more dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma. As with most forms of cancer, early detection and treatment is the key to a cure. 

Sun exposure is not the only risk; genes play a important role. If you have a family history of any form of skin cancer, but especially melanoma, increased detection diligence is key.  In addition to your annual skin exam, be aware of any "suspicious" skin growths, or changes in preexisting moles.  Changes to be particularly aware of are changes in size, an irregular shape, or changes in color.  Moles that bleed easily should also be evaluated.  Scaly spots that are slightly raised with a reddish background or irregular border, may be precancer lesions called actinic keratoses. Ideally, these should be removed early.  

Your skin is the largest organ you have.  Protect it with prevention. 

Created: 6/22/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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