|A thin Melanoma like mine|
These days with the thinning of the ozone layer, more harmful rays get through our atmosphere even on overcast days. Longer lives of exposure to the sun means we all have a higher risk of developing sun damage and skin cancers.
It's not all to do with sun exposure, but if you are fair skinned, burn easily and have many moles you are more at risk of developing skin cancer. People who have been badly sunburnt in the past, work outdoors or have spent time in tropical countries or areas where the ozone layer is thin or the sun is strong have increased risk. If you have already had a skin cancer or have family members who have had one you are more at risk.
There are different forms of skin cancer - some spread, some tend to just sit on the skin - all need urgent assessment and treatment. Melanoma is called Malignant i.e. it can spread quickly through the body depositing cancer cells far away from the original skin lesion. 60 % of melanoma is due to sun exposure.
Smokers and people who are overweight are more at risk of any cancer and those who have low immunity are more at risk of melanoma.
To reduce your personal risk:
- stay fit and healthy in weight and diet, stop smoking
- avoid the midday sun
- wear a wide brimmed hat and glasses (your eyes can be damaged too)
- use high factor sunscreen on exposed areas such as the feet, back of the neck, hands, whole face, ears
- consider using a daily sunscreen if you are regularly exposed to sunlight.
NEVER USE A SUNBED as this is just adding to your exposure and premature ageing.
Don't sunbathe and avoid spending time with your shirt off.
If you want to get brown get a spray tan - the worst thing that can happen is your clothes get stained!
A strategy for recognising dangerous skin moles or lesions:
Doctors speak of "Red Flag" signs or symptoms which indicate a high risk change in a skin lesion - If ANY are present you should see a doctor urgently.
These changes are:
- a new change in normal appearance of the skin
- new itching lesion
- new bleeding of a lesion
- lesion becoming raised
- change in lesion size / diameter
- change in lesion shape or regularity of the border
- change in lesion colour or uniformity
- surrounding skin change
No one sign on its own can predict that a skin lesion is a cancer or changing into one; it's a combination of factors that may point towards a significant or dangerous change.
Ultimately if you see a skin lesion that is changing its well worth getting it checked by your GP in a timely fashion; some GP's have an illuminated magnifying dermatoscope which can help to distinguish concerning features not visible to the naked eye. Even if this is not available but a skin lesion is changing or symptomatic, it's best to get it reviewed by a dermatologist anyway. They may recommend removal and histology (histology=study under a microscope searching for cancer cells).
Don't forget to check the areas you don't normally see - either in the mirror or get someone else to check them including:
- back of the neck and legs
- top and back of the ears
- groins and armpits and crevices
Remember IF IT CHANGES GET IT CHECKED.
I was lucky to know and spot the changes quickly as I had just attended a conference on melanoma!
My melanoma was thin ( a safer type for survival) at 0.6 mm but contained 2 active rapid changing sites or "mitoses" indicating a higher level of aggression.
For more information on this topic have a look at these web links and please post your own links in comments section if you find more helpful resources:
Video explaining skin cancer
Guide to preventing skin cancer
Overview of skin cancer
Guide to Melanoma
Guide to Melanoma staging
IF IT CHANGES GET IT CHECKED
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