Save Your Skin

Save Your Skin
NON-MELANOMA: Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common forms of skin cancer— affecting more than one million people a year—and can easily be removed with various outpatient procedures.
MELANOMA: This much more serious form of skin cancer affects fewer people—62,000 people (8,420 of whom died) in 2008, according to estimates by the American Cancer Society—but is potentially fatal because it can spread to other organs and can appear anywhere on the body, not just on sun-exposed parts.

INCREASES IN SKIN CANCER: The incidence of melanoma in women under age 40 has jumped by 50 percent since 1980, according to research by the National Cancer Institute. And incidence of non-melanomas has more than doubled among young women in the past 30 years, according to Mayo Clinic data. Experts chalk it up to women dressing more scantily and using tanning beds, which have been shown to increase risk. New research shows that women who undergo Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for menopause symptoms may be twice as likely to develop melanoma.

THE RISKS: Your risk is higher if you are Caucasian and older than 20 and have these factors, according to experts:
Fair skin, blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily
Repeated sunburns
Excessive sun exposure (e.g., you work outdoors or live in a sunny or high-altitude region)
History of using tanning beds, which emit UV rays
Many moles or abnormal moles (use the ABCD guidelines, opposite) or large pigmented birthmarks, around 20 centimeters in diameter
A personal or family history of skin cancer or precancerous legions, or breast or ovarian cancer
A weakened immune system from HIV/AIDS or leukemia, or from taking immunosuppressant drugs
Fragile skin (e.g., skin burned, injured, or treated for psoriasis or eczema)
Frequent exposure to industrial chemicals If you’re at high risk for skin cancer, limit your overall time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.


When screening for moles, follow this ABCD system from the American Cancer Society:

ASYMMETRY: one side looks different from the other
BORDERS: irregular, notched, scalloped, or otherwise indistinct
COLOR: more than one shade
DIAMETER: larger than a pencil eraser

Plus: Note changes in the texture of a mole (scaly, oozing, crusty, or bleeding), changes in the skin around the mole (redness, swelling), or any moles that start itching or feel tender or painful.