Don’t Forget Your Skin in 2017
While we are your resource for your gynecological, obstetrics, and fertility needs at Women’s Health Medical Group, we’re also concerned about your overall health. With that in mind, we want to give you a little primer on protecting your skin against the sun and the threat of skin cancer. After all, most of us have been guilty at one time or another of the old baby oil and laying out on the roof game (hopefully those days are over!). Plus, living in sunny Texas makes it easy to get a ton of sun.
The key to dealing with skin cancer is to catch it early. To that end, here’s some information for the New Year on skin cancer from your friends at Women’s Health Medical Group.
Skin cancer isn’t colorblind
Why is it that you seem to always be having something frozen off your arm or face at the dermatologist, while your friend with darker skin never sees the liquid nitrogen? It all comes down to melanin. Melanin is the pigment in the skin that helps protect it from the sun. Melanin is what is responsible for turning the skin a darker tone (tanning) after receiving sun exposure. This is a protection mechanism.
If you’re fair skinned then you simply have less melanin in your skin, so you have less protection. The ultraviolet rays from the sun can alter the genetic material in skin cells, causing them to mutate into cancerous cells. It is estimated that 40 to 50% of people with fair skin (who live to be at least 65 years of age) will develop at least one skin cancer in their lives.
Types of skin cancer
You may have thought that all skin cancers are kind of the same, but there is a major difference between squamous cell carcinomas and basil cell carcinomas versus melanoma. It comes down to sun exposure, but in different ways. Squamous and basal cell carcinomas are the result of the amount of overall sun exposure. Fair-skinned people who spend a lot of time outdoors will likely develop one or both of these two skin cancers. Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, isn’t thought to come from prolonged sun exposure, but from the intensity. It is believed that melanoma is triggered by the scorching sunburns where the person’s skin blisters and peels afterwards. Research has shown that just one blistering sunburn during childhood doubles a person’s risk for developing melanoma later in life. And if you’re fair skinned, you’ve probably had a few of those peeling sunburns, so you need to keep on the alert.
Know your ABCDEs
These five letters can come in handy when looking for skin cancers on your skin.
- Asymmetry — If one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half, that’s a concern. Normal moles are symmetrical.
- Border — If the border or edges of your mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular, that is a reason to call a dermatologist. Melanoma lesions often have irregular borders.
- Color — Normal moles are a single shade throughout. If your mole has changed color or if it has different shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red, then it should be checked.
- Diameter — If a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil it needs to be checked.
- Evolving — If a mole evolves by shrinking, growing larger, changing color, itching or bleeding, or other changes it should be checked. Melanoma lesions often grow in size or gain height rapidly.
So, while we’re not dermatologists at Women’s Health Group, if you notice anything from the ABCs above, we can recommend a number of great dermatologists in the Fort Worth area to send you to. Just keep an eye on your skin and if you need a referral, call us at 817-346-5336.
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