Melanoma Monday—Check Yourself


The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has set aside May 6 to raise awareness about skin cancer and increase education on skin health, sun safety and skin cancer screenings.

When skin cancer is detected early—including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer—it is usually treatable. The best way to find skin cancer early is to check yourself regularly. Skin cancer may present in a variety of ways, but commonly appears as:

  • Any spot or marking that is new.
  • A spot that changes in size, shape, feel or color.
  • An unusual sore or lump that shows crusting, oozing or bleeding.
  • As unusual spot that itches or is tender and painful.

Dr. Christina Alexander, a board-certified dermatologist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare describes one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer: “Regular use of broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF30 or higher, combined with other sun protective measures [see below]has been shown to prevent both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.”

Preventing Skin Cancer

On average, one person dies every hour from melanoma. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid harmful UV rays. Long-term exposure to UV rays not only increases your risk of skin cancer, but it can also cause premature aging of the skin.

To minimize your exposure to UV rays and protect yourself from skin cancer, follow these tips when outdoors:

  • Avoid peak sunlight: the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Try to schedule your family’s outdoor activities before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m. to avoid the most powerful UV rays.
  • Be careful on cloudy days: it’s a myth that cloudy weather blocks sunlight and UV rays. It’s just as important to use sun protection on cloudy days.
  • Wear sunscreen: apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF30 or above before you go outside no matter the season. Re-apply sunscreen if you’re outside for more than two hours or if you’re in the water for more than 30 minutes.
  • Find shade: look for a shady area for an extra layer of protection.
  • Wear appropriate clothing: wear a hat with a 4-inch brim to help protect your scalp, face, ears and neck from the sun. Long-sleeved shirts are also helpful. If you are outside for an extended time, wear a tight-knit fabric or clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF).

“Look for sunscreen products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for the best protection,” says Dr. Alexander. “Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone or octinoxate, as recent studies suggest these chemicals may be harmful to the environment, particularly coral reefs.”

Our Dermatology and Aesthetics experts are right here to partner with you on your journey toward healthier skin. Schedule an appointment with a St. Elizabeth Dermatologist today!