Medical group stresses skin safety for summer months

  • Published
  • By 23rd Medical Group
  • 23rd Wing
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1 million Americans are diagnosed each year with skin cancer, the most common form of cancer. Of these, about 51,400 people will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

Almost everyone has moles, on the average about 25. The vast majority of moles are perfectly harmless. A change in a mole's appearance is a sign that you should see your physician. However, a melanoma is more complicated than a mole.

Here are some simple rules to help Airmen remember the important signs of melanoma and other skin cancers.

- Asymmetry: One half of the spot does not match the other half.
- Border irregularity: Normal moles are round or oval. The borders of a melanoma may be uneven or have notches.
- Color: Common moles are usually one color throughout. Melanomas may have several colors or an irregular pattern of colors.
- Diameter: Common moles are generally less than 1/4 inch in diameter (the diameter of a pencil eraser). Melanomas may be 1/8 to 1/4 inch, but are often larger.

The following tips will help Airmen prevent the onset of skin cancer:

- Limit sun exposure: The sun's rays are the strongest 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sunlight reflects off water, sand, concrete and snow. Ultraviolet rays can also reach below the water's surface. Harmful rays are even present on cloudy days.
- Cover up: Choose long-sleeved shirts and long pants when in the sun to protect as much skin as possible. Wear a hat that shades your face, neck and ears.
- Sunscreen: Use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 15 or higher everyday.
- Tanning Booths: Do not use tanning booths or sunlamps. They are as harmful to your skin as the sun.
- Use more caution: Exercise precaution if you are taking prescription drugs. Some medications can greatly increase your skin's sensitivity to UV radiation. Check with your pharmacist.
- Parents--take note: Avoiding sunburn during childhood and adolescence is important in reducing the risk of skin cancer later in life. Sunscreen is not recommended for children less than 6 months old. Keep infants in the shade and covered up with clothing.

For more information about skin safety, make an appointment with your provider or call the medical appointment line at 257-2778.