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May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

Ross Levy, MD, is Director of Dermatology, Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical.
Ross Levy, MD, is Director of Dermatology, Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical. Photo Credit: Contributed

MT. KISCO, N.Y. -- With more than one million new cases of skin cancer occurring annually, it’s more important than ever this summer to protect the skin you’re in. According to the American Cancer Society, about 5.4 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer will be diagnosed annually in the United States. Melanoma, the most virulent form of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,000 cases of skin cancer in 2016 and 75% of all skin cancer deaths.

Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer, with one in five Americans developing skin cancer in their lifetime. The primary reason for this epidemic is that we are not effectively protecting ourselves from the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV) from a young age, so the damage has built up over time.

While skin cancer is deadly, it is curable if detected early. The five-year survival rate for people whose melanomas are detected and treated before they spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body is 98%.

Get savvy about skin cancer by knowing your risk factors for skin cancer, learning how to prevent skin cancer and some surprising facts about sun safety.

The risk factors for skin cancer include:

  • A family history of skin cancer or melanoma.
  • A history of blistering sunburns as a teenager or young child.
  • Fair skin, red or blonde hair, light (green or blue) eyes.
  • A history of Actinic Keratoses (AKs), lesions on the skin considered to be precursors to skin cancer.
  • Certain types and a large number of moles.
  • Living in sunny or high-altitude climates.
  • Excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight or tanning beds.
  • Working or playing outdoors in the mid-day sun (between 10 am and 4 pm)

You can reduce your risk for skin cancer by adopting healthy sun protection habits from a young age, using sunscreen and protective clothing consistently, avoiding mid-day sun, checking your skin regularly and going for annual dermatology checkups. Annual checkups should begin in your early to mid 20s if you are at a high risk, and between ages 45-50 if you are not at high risk for skin cancer.

It is also important to know the ABCDEs of suspicious moles: (a)symmetry, (b)order irregularity, (c)olor change, (d)iameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser, and an (e)levated or raised mole or skin lesion. Ultimately, know your body better than any dermatologist could. Make sure you inspect yourself and your loved ones monthly for any abnormal areas or new growths.

Ross S. Levy, MD, is Director of Dermatology, Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical.

See the attached pdf for sun prevention tips.

See Attachment