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Published on June 03, 2013

MU Health Care Physicians Give Tips To Prevent Skin Cancer

COLUMBIA, Mo. ― As Americans begin to spend more time outdoors for summer activities, University of Missouri Health Care physicians Paul Dale, M.D., and Kari Martin, M.D., remind people to take steps to reduce their risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with two million Americans diagnosed each year, according to Martin, a pediatric dermatologist at Children’s Hospital.

“During their lifetimes, one in five Americans is diagnosed with skin cancer,” said Dale, interim medical director of Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, chief of surgical oncology and Margaret Proctor Mulligan Distinguished Professor in Medical Research. “Because most skin cancers are caused by over-exposure to sun and other forms of ultraviolet light, you can take simple steps to significantly reduce your risk of developing the disease.”

Skin cancer usually is caused when radiation from the sun’s rays causes damage to the body’s skin cells. A sun burn or even a slight suntan is a sign that your skin has been damaged by ultraviolet light.

Martin gives these tips to reduce your risk of skin damage from ultraviolet light:

  • Limit your exposure to sunlight when UV radiation from the sun is strongest — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • If you are going outside in the sun, cover yourself in clothing made of tightly woven fabric, which blocks UV light.
  • Always wear sunscreen if you will be outside in the sun. Choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB light, with an SPF rating of at least 15 and preferably 30.
  • Avoid sun tanning and tanning booths. Both cause skin damage that increases your risk of skin cancer.

According to Martin, the three most common types of skin cancer — basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma — are treated most effectively when caught early, so people should be familiar with their skin and watch for new moles and other changes.

“I recommend patients examine their skin regularly and see a physician if they find any spots with concerning characteristics,” Dale said.

He suggests patients watch for any changes in the mole, including size, shape, color or appearance of a new spot. Dale also recommends following the A,B,C,D, and E signs of skin cancer when examining themselves.

  • A is for asymmetry, when one half of a mole or birth mark doesn’t match the other.
  • B is for border, if the edges of a skin spot are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
  • C is for color, when the color of the mole isn’t the same all over and may include different shades of black or brown, or sometimes patches of pink, red, white or blue.
  • D is for diameter, when the spot is larger than six millimeters across — about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • E is for evolution, when a mole changes over time — whether shape, size, color or other changes.

For more information about skin cancer.

Dr.Dale on Skin Cancer