Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

During the spring and summer months, people are more likely to reach for shorts, tank tops and bathing suits before heading outside. Clothes that offer less coverage means more skin is exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. This puts you at a higher risk of sunburn, premature aging and melanoma.

If you spend any time outdoors, the experienced doctors at the START Center for Cancer Care want to ensure you know how to protect your skin. Simple preventative steps can help lower your risk of skin cancer by keeping you safe from UVA and UVB rays.

How can you detect melanomas and skin cancer?

After your bath or shower, take a few minutes to examine your skin. It’s important to regularly check your skin and learn the patterns of your blemishes, moles, freckles and other marks. If you notice any changes, call your primary care physician (PCP) or dermatologist.

Performing a self-examination

Below are step-by-step instructions for detecting melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

Step 1

Stand in front of a mirror and look closely at your face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest and torso.

Step 2

Check your underarms and hands, and between your fingers and fingernails.

Step 3

Sit down and examine the tops of your thighs, shins, feet, and between your toes and toenails.

Step 4

Remain seated and look at the bottoms of your feet and the backs of your thighs and calves, one leg at a time.

Step 5

Find a small hand mirror and use it to check your buttocks, genital area, back, neck and ears. Use your bathroom mirror together with your hand mirror to check your back.

Step 6

Use a comb to part your hair in different places to check your scalp.

Step 7

Visit your dermatologist for regular annual checkups. They will give you a thorough examination and remove anything that causes concern and send it to be biopsied.

How can you prevent melanomas and skin cancer?

Sunscreen, protective clothing and shade are excellent for helping you avoid sunburn, age spots and skin cancer.

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen

The best sunscreens are those that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. These are harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. All sunscreens provide protection from UVB rays, which cause sunburn. Broad-spectrum sunscreens also include UVA protection; these rays contribute to premature aging and skin cancer. Find a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher to keep your skin healthy this summer, and all year-round.

Wear protective clothing

Sportswear clothing has UV protection built-in, but unless you’re planning to be very active outdoors for lengthy periods of time, you will probably not need these specialty items. Long sleeve shirts, long pants, wide-brimmed hats that cover your neck and sunglasses are a good line of defense against melanoma, skin cancer and premature aging.

Shade yourself from the sun

Don’t forget your beach umbrellas when visiting your favorite pool, lake or ocean. Avoid outdoor activity or stay in the shade from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Ultraviolet rays from the sun are strongest during these times.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with cancer, make an appointment with a START Center cancer physician. Call 210-745-6841 or request and appointment using our easy online form.