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Shining a Light on Skin Cancer

Shining a Light on Skin Cancer

Getting ready to travel to the beach for your summer vacation? Can’t wait to spend the afternoon with the kids or grandkids at the pool or on your boat? Does your idea of a perfect afternoon include baking in the sun with a good book? You should read more below before heading out to work on that tan…

Yes, most of us like feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin and how we look with a little “color,” but too much time in the sun can be deadly. Did you know that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer in their lifetime? Fortunately, you don't have to be a statistic: an annual screening with follow-up care and immediate treatment, if needed, can save your life!

That’s why Valley Health and Dermatology Associates, Inc. have teamed up over the last three years to organize a SPOTme® Skin Cancer Screening Day each spring during Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The SPOTme® skin cancer screening outreach is an evidence-based public service health program of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Held at Valley Health’s Cancer Center on the Winchester Medical Center campus, over 100 local residents have been provided the opportunity for a full body exam or a spot/mole check conducted by a board-certified dermatologist or registered nurse. Those with suspicious moles or lesions were referred for follow-up.

As a member of the Cancer Action Coalition of Virginia, Valley Health advances several skin cancer prevention and awareness initiatives like the SPOTme® Skin Cancer Screening Day. The oncology healthcare team promotes sunscreen use and the wearing of protective clothing, and partners with other community organizations on projects that increase awareness about the deadly disease. One such community partnership was recently highlighted, along with the other outreach work of the Valley Health team, in the Oncology Issues journal. Written by Debra DeNitto, BS, oncology community outreach coordinator at Valley Health, the article Developing Skin Cancer Prevention Initiatives for the Whole Family” outlines several collaborative programs, including one at Clarke County Public Pool, aimed at reducing skin cancer in Virginia.

So what steps can you take to ensure sun safety for your loved ones? First, always use sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, has an SPF of 30 or more and is water resistant. Stay out of sun during peak hours (10 am to 2 pm) and reapply sunscreen every two hours. Take time to inspect your skin and your family’s for changes, and see a dermatologist immediately if you notice any of the “ABCDE” warning signs:

  • A—Asymmetrical Shape: Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, and other cancerous growths are often irregular or asymmetrical in shape; benign moles are usually symmetrical.
  • B—Border: Typically, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders that are difficult to define.
  • C—Color: The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.
  • D—Diameter: Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 millimeters (approximately the size of a pencil eraser) in diameter.
  • E—Evolution: The evolution of your mole(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and/or size, bring it to the attention of a dermatologist immediately.

The American Academy of Dermatology guidelines states: “When caught early, skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is highly treatable. A skin cancer screening only takes a few minutes, yet it could save your life.” Don’t become a skin cancer statistic. Enjoy the sun this summer, but take the precautions outlined above that will ensure that you and your loved one have many more summers of fun in the sun!