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May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month

May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month

Melanoma is the most invasive and life threatening of all skin cancers. Melanoma has dramatically increased over the last 30 years. Prevention is key and I want to educate my clients on the importance of safe sun practices.

The public assumes that the only people that need to be concerned with skin cancer are those that have lighter skin, blue eyes, and have blonde or red hair. That could not be further from the truth. Melanoma can form anywhere on your body. Legs are the most common area for women to develop melanoma, but men are more likely to develop it on their trunk and upper back. Melanoma can even form on your eyes and internal organs.

Cause for Concern

I have always been concerned with skin cancer. As a former registered dental hygienist I always felt that the best service I could perform was an oral and external cancer exam. The external skin cancer exam was not within my scope at that time. But, after seeing these patients over the course of 20 years, if I saw something on their skin that looked suspicious, I would make them aware of it. I would recommend that they follow up with their dermatologist and chart the dimensions and location of the suspicious mark. I would follow up with them at each appointment.

Dermatologists often use a “watch and see” approach when it comes to lesions, an approach I don’t always agree with. The only way to really know what that lesion is for a biopsy to be performed. Sometimes it turned out to be a benign skin cancer, but there were so many times where I have pushed a patient to insist on a biopsy and it turned out to be melanoma or another form of skin cancer. I have then gotten feedback from the patients saying their dermatologist was glad that I insisted on the biopsy because it likely saved their life.

Personal Experience with Melanoma

On a personal note, I had a pre-melanoma removed years ago on my bikini line and my husband had a melanoma in situ removed from his upper back. Almost 10 years ago my Dad was diagnosed with melanoma in his eye. He had 4 surgeries within the first year to remove all of them. They were on his inner lid and sclera. He went in every 6 months to be checked and was cancer free for 5 years before he was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. It had spread throughout his entire body and every organ had been compromised with this horrible cancer.

My Dad was not blonde, blue eyed and fair skinned. He was of Italian descent with dark brown eyes, hair and dark skin. He loved to be out in the sun without any sun protection. He felt that being tan equated with being healthy. For so long and still today there are those who are of the mindset that tan = robust health and white = poor health. 

This mindset needs to be changed! I know I always wanted to look like the copper tone girl! 😂 I did not have my family’s darker skin tone and they always pointed that out. I suffered many a sunburn trying to look “healthy”, unfortunately setting myself up for skin cancer.

This coming August will be the 5th anniversary of my dad’s passing.  If I can educate even one person to prevent skin cancer, it would be a tribute to my beloved Dad.

Knowledge is Key

Learn the warning signs of skin cancer:

How to Reduce Your Skin Cancer Risk:

  • Avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm.
  • Do not use tanning beds.
  • Use sunscreen with a strong SPF and reapply at least every 1.5 hours; more often if you are in the water or sweating.
  • Use the correct amount of sunscreen. A pea size amount is not going to protect you. Use a nickel size for your face (about a good half teaspoon or more) For your body, use the amount it would take to fill a shot glass.
  • Understand that being in the swimming pool, in your home, car or work does not protect you from the sun’s rays.
  • Use a lip balm with SPF. (I personally use and carry Tizo.)
  • Wear a hat with a brim made with SPF fabric. (I personally use and carry Wallaroo hats. Your ball cap, no matter how cute, offers little to no protection.)
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection
  • Don’t get sunburned. The more often you get sunburned the greater your chances of developing melanoma.
  • Wear SPF clothing, like Cabana Life.

Wear your sunscreen on your face every single day, just like you do your serums. In fact, many “anti-aging” products contain SPF.

What to Eat to Reduce Skin Cancer Risk

Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet may help prevent cancer. Try the following:

  • Daily tea drinking
  • High vegetable diet
  • Weekly fish intake