|Wellness Center provides tips on the sun and your skin|
Each year in the United States more than a million people are diagnosed with skin cancer. Although it’s not usually deadly, skin cancer can cause serious problems. What’s more, once people develop skin cancer, they are at high risk of developing another, new skin cancer later. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect yourself from the disease. Most forms of skin cancer can be prevented by limiting your exposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet light. That doesn’t mean that you have to hide from the sun, but you should:
• Stay away from tanning booths and sunlamps;
• Limit the time you spend outdoors, particularly at midday;
• Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves and wide-brimmed hats;
• Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet light;
• Use sunscreen every day, and make sure it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
Another important step toward protecting yourself from skin cancer involves getting to know your skin and checking regularly for changes. To examine your skin, go into a well-lit room with a full-length mirror and take off all your clothes. Look at the skin everywhere on your body, including areas that never see the sun, such as the space between your toes. If there are places you cannot see well, such as your back, ask someone you trust to look for you. Be on the lookout for any unusual skin markings. Note any moles that have changed in size, texture, color, or shape; or any moles or scabs that continue to bleed or won’t heal. The most common sites for skin cancer are the areas that get the most sun, namely the head, neck, back, chest, or shoulders. Still, skin cancer can strike anywhere, so don’t ignore the rest of your body.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and
melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common of the skin cancers, but melanoma is the most dangerous. These cancers tend to look different. Melanomas, for example, are usually brown or black and sometimes look like or start out as moles (see below, “The ABCs of Melanoma”). Non-melanoma skin cancer may be a little more difficult to spot than melanoma. These types of cancer can look like firm, pearly or red bumps (sometimes with a depressed center). They can also cause red or scaly spots that bleed easily. The key is to beware of any skin changes that don’t heal. If you spot a mole or skin change that you think could be cancerous, have your doctor look at it.
To learn more about skin cancer, call a health coach. Health coaches are specially trained healthcare professionals, such as nurses, dietitians, and respiratory therapists. They are available by phone, anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no charge to you. To talk to a health coach, call 1-800-658-2750. You can also get information online at www.thedialogcenter.com/bcbsnd.
When trying to spot melanoma, it’s useful to look for the A,B,C’s of melanoma:
* A is for asymmetry, meaning that one half of the mole or skin growth doesn't match the other half.
* B is for border irregularity. Moles or spots with ragged, notched, or blurred edges are more likely to be cancerous than moles or spots with even edges.
* C is for color. Moles with a mix of tan, brown, or black are more likely to be cancerous than ones that are all one shade. Dashes of red, white, or blue are also cause for concern.
* D is for diameter. Moles or skin growths larger than a pencil eraser are more likely to be cancerous than smaller ones.
-- Blue Cross, Blue Shield & Amanda Eickhoff, Wellness Program Assistant, Wellness Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, 777-0210