Are you all ready summer? We bet you've been dieting and working out to get your body beach-ready! You may have looked into fun summer activities, booked your summer vacation and bought some new outfits. Would you be able to recognize skin cancer, though, and are you familiar with proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk?
Skin Cancer: Why Ignorance Is Not Bliss
The British Association of Dermatologists, an organization that carries the unfortunate acronym "BAD", surveyed 1,018 people across the United Kingdom during the summer of 2014. Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the UK. It has been on the rise ever since the 1960s. Right now, the UK has 250,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 13,000 new cases of melanoma each year, leading to over 2,000 deaths on an annual basis.
Just how much does the average Briton know about skin cancer, how do they use the knowledge they have, and how do YOU measure up? The BAD survey shows that UK residents are quite aware that skin cancer is a worry; 84 percent said they were worried about getting skin cancer in the UK climate, 88 percent think skin cancer isn't any easier to eliminate than other cancers, and a whopping 95 percent knew that skin cancer rates are still rising in the UK.
In contrast, 40 percent were found not to check their skin for signs of skin cancer ever, while 36 percent of respondents said they looked for signs of skin cancer very infrequently and only four percent indicated that they examined their skin for signs of skin cancer every month. Would those who do bother to check be able to recognize skin cancer?
What's more, the majority of those who took part in the BAD survey actually admitted to being sunburned within the last year. Johnathon Major of the British Association of Dermatologists shared: "Almost three-quarters of people we surveyed admitted that they had been sunburned in the last year, which is shocking. With sunny days already making an appearance in parts of the UK, it is likely that this figure will remain high this year. This is a reflection of poor sun protection habits – people underestimate the damage that sunburn can do to their skin, and many think that skin reddening is just a harmless part of the tanning process, rather than a sure sign that you have damaged your skin irreparably."
In conclusion, many people are aware of the risks of skin cancer, but few are proactive about protecting themselves. If you're one of them, the beginning of summer is the perfect opportunity to inform yourself and take preventative action.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer?
Being proactive with regards to skin cancer requires a two-fold approach. You can take steps to reduce your risk or skin cancer, and regularly check your skin for red flags that you may have melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer.
To check for melanoma, the so-called "ABCDE checklist" is a helpful tool. These first five letters of the alphabet can help you remember what to look for:
- "A" stands for asymmetry. Melanomas are irregularly shaped and don't look the same on both sides.
- "B" stands for border, because melanomas have borders that appear blurred or chopped rather than smooth.
- "C" is for colors, as melanomas are multi-colored and can contain shades of brown, black, red, pink and other colors.
- "D" is for diameter. Melanomas tend to be larger than regular moles, and over 6 mm.
- Finally, "E" is for expert. If you're not sure whether you should be worried about a mole, you need to check in for expert advice. Do not delay. See your doctor.
Non-melanoma skin cancer, meanwhile, can come in many different variations. Do call your doctor if you have a scab or patch that won't heal and bleeds sometimes, have an inflamed, rough looking patch of skin you're not sure about, if you have a skin lump that won't go away (and especially but not only if it appears to be growing), or notice a crater-like patch of skin.
That means applying a new layer every two hours or after swimming in the sun. Don't forget to replace your sun screen regularly, because it does come with an expiry date. You can also cover your skin with clothing and wear sun glasses. Take special care to keep babies and young kids out of the sun, and make sure they do not get sunburn.