It’s not tough to imagine that, after a few months of gray, cold, dreary days, most of us are ready to welcome the warmth and sunshine of spring and summer with open arms. But, before you head outside for the season, it’s a good idea to take a good look at your skin and evaluate your risk for skin cancer. Statistically, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. When diagnosed and removed early, most skin cancers often are curable, but when left undiagnosed and untreated, skin cancer can be deadly.
Blount Memorial Cancer Center radiation oncology coordinator Charae Lovin says it’s critical to perform self-checks on your skin and be aware of any changes. “We should all be doing skin self-checks to look for moles or anything that looks suspicious,” Lovin said. “To do this, we want to use the ‘ABCDEs of skin cancer’ as a guide – Asymmetric shape, Borders that are uneven, Color or multiple colors in one blemish, Diameter greater than 1/4 inch, and Evolving appearance. If you find anything concerning, you should see a board-certified dermatologist for an exam and evaluation,” she explained.
Lovin adds skin cancer can affect different people different ways. “Even the same type of skin cancer can appear differently from one person to the next,” she said. “Unfortunately, skin cancer can happen to anyone at any age, whether you are dark or fair skinned,” she said. “Most people get skin cancer from too much sun, or from using tanning beds. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of getting melanoma by 75 percent,” she explained.
Even if you’re a diligent sunscreen user, though, Lovin says there are key things to remember. “It takes at least 15 minutes for sunscreen to absorb into your skin, so remember to apply early,” she said. “Most adults need at least an ounce of sunscreen, or roughly the amount that can fit in your palm, to cover their bodies. Remember to apply to any exposed areas of skin including your neck, face, ears, feet, legs and scalp if you happen to have thinning hair. People who get sunburned typically didn’t use enough sunscreen, didn’t apply it properly or forgot to reapply, or used an expired product. Also, check the expiration dates of your sunscreen – last year’s tube or bottle may need to be replaced,” she explained.
“Even if you’re just going outside for a short walk, you’re at risk for skin damage from the sun, so sunscreen should be your best friend this spring and summer,” Lovin continued. “It’s also worth noting that the hottest and brightest time of day typically is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Remember that if you look at the ground and your shadow is shorter than you, it’s probably a good time to take a sun-break and find some shade. I would recommend self-tanners for anyone looking for a tanned, sun-kissed look, as they’re a much safer alternative to suntanning and tanning beds,” she said. “And don’t think sunscreen is just for warm pretty days. Sunscreen is recommended any time you’re getting sun exposure, even if it’s on a cold day,” she added.
In 2021, melanoma was the third most diagnosed cancer at Blount Memorial Hospital, just behind breast cancer and lung cancer. To help with early detection, the Blount Memorial Cancer Center hosting a free skin cancer screening this month to help the underserved, uninsured and community members who are not currently under a dermatologist’s care. Certified physician assistants Kevin Blanton and Waynette Kingman will participate in the free screening event, which will take place Saturday, April 23 from 8 a.m. – noon at the Blount Memorial Cancer Center. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. To register, call 865-977-5534.
It’s never too late to start protecting your skin from further damage. You can help decrease your risk by:
- Wearing sunscreen 30 SPF or higher
- Making sure your sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays
- Applying sunscreen 15-20 minutes before you are going to be in the sun
- Reapplying sunscreen every two hours
- Remembering to use lip balm 15 SPF or higher
- Wearing a broad-rimmed hat to protect your ears, head and face
- Wearing sunglasses that offer a high percentage of UV protection