Protecting yourself, your family from melanoma and skin cancer

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Protecting yourself, your family from melanoma and skin cancer
With warm weather here, doctors at Fox Chase Cancer Center are sounding the alarm about skin cancer and melanoma.

It's finally warm enough to go out without coats and hats.

So experts at Fox Chase Cancer Center say now is the time to step up your use of sunscreen, especially on your head and neck.

"It's one of the most common areas for us actually to diagnose melanoma," observes Dr. Cecelia Schmalbach, an otolaryngologist and surgeon at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Dr. Schmalbach not only treats cancers of the head and neck.

She educates patients, too, especially on preventing melanoma.

Basal and squamous cell skin cancer develops from lifetime sun exposure.

But melanoma is caused by blistering sunburns.

And just one sunburn raises your risk. The more burns, the higher the risk.

Dr. Schmalbach says the most vulnerable to burns are fair-skinned people who work indoors all week, then spend the weekend outdoor, such as at the shore.

All too often, they're young.

"One in 4 patients that walk into our clinic with melanoma are actually under the age of 40. And that's especially true for young women," says Dr. Schmalbach.

She fights the myth that getting a so-called base tan, such as with a tanning bed, prevents sunburns.

Science shows the opposite is true.

"It has been proven to actually cause melanoma," she says.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says more people develop skin cancer from indoor tanning than get lung cancer from smoking.

Dr. Schmalbach says regular all-over skin checks are important, including the scalp.

The ABCDE method can help you identify suspicious spots.

"A is for asymmetry, B is for border irregularity," says Dr. Schmalbach.

C is for color variation.

"A melanoma can be any color from brown, red, black, purple, blue," she says.

D is for diameter: spots larger than the size of a pencil eraser could be melanoma.

And E is evolution, or changes.

"Whether it's grown or changed in color, that in and of itself is enough to warrant a trip to the doctor,"

Dr. Schmalbach says you should make a daily habit of a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even in a moisturizer.

And don't forget the backs of your neck and ears, and your feet, because they sunburn easily, and we don't routinely look at them.

This applies to all skin types.

Fox Chase Cancer Center's blog can help you do skin checks: How to Self-Check for Signs of Skin Cancer.

The American Academy of Dermatology has more on the ABCDE system to identify potential melanomas: What to Look For: ABCDEs of Melanoma.