Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection: Understanding UV Rays

With summer officially in session, it is important to take care of your skin especially under the summer sun. It is important to be aware of skin cancer prevention and early detection tips for both yourself and your patients as you embark on your travel assignments. As each year brings more heat, it is crucial to take preemptive measures to protect yourself from excessive sun exposure, thus minimizing your chances of getting skin cancer. Did you know that skin cancer is one of the easiest and common types of cancer that humans are likely to obtain? In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that there are “over 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer in more than 3.3 million people” reported each year in the U.S. alone with “about 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers” caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. Take care of your skin this summer and learn more about skin cancer prevention and early detection for your patients.

Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection: Understanding UV Rays

What is skin cancer?

In order to learn about skin cancer prevention and early detection, is it important to understand what cancer is. Cancer is caused when cells become mutated and begin to multiply uncontrollably. As a result, this growth becomes a tumor. Tumors can either be benign or malignant, with only malignant tumors becoming cancerous. Malignant tumors travel to organs through the bloodstream, causing these tissues and organs to be deprived of oxygen and nutrients. In the same way, skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation that damages your skin cells as you are constantly exposed to the sun’s UV rays. The damage could eventually cause your cells to mutate and grow, forming a tumor. This exposure could be due to constant vulnerability to the sun or to artificial sources such as tanning beds.

What are the different types of skin cancer & what are its symptoms?

Skin cancer is diagnosed into three main categories: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. These categories are determined by the different skin cells that are have been damages. Basal cell carcinoma is caused by sun exposure and is slow to spread, thus it usually does not spread to various parts of the body. Similarly, squamous cell carcinoma is also caused by sun exposure and can mostly be found in scars. According to the American Cancer Society, “squamous cell cancers are more likely to grow into deeper layers of the skin spread to other parts of the body.” On the other hand, melanoma develops in melanocytes cells, the skin cells that create pigments. Signs of melanoma could be seen in the formation of moles in various parts of the body. To detect skin cancer, look for signs of abnormality within your skin. For example, if you find marks of red or brown rough skin, this is called an actinic keratosis. This could eventually develop into a squamous cell carcinoma. In the same way, abnormal moles such as dysplastic nevi can develop into melanoma.

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How can I protect myself?

There are multiple ways to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. For example, it is important to minimize the amount of direct sun exposure that you receive. To do this, avoid walking or staying under direct sunlight. Instead, walk in shaded areas to shield yourself from UV rays. In regards to clothing, stick to wearing dark clothes to avoid the absorption of UV rays. Wear a hat and sunglasses when you are outside to protect yourself from sun damage. Although most people do not think about it, the sun can damage your eyes! It is also important not to forget to wear sunscreen every day, even if it is cloudy. Make sure to reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours as well as right after you go for a swim in order to ensure that you are getting the maximum protection. When shopping for sunscreen, make sure that you are properly reading the labels and following the instructions to get the most out of your product.

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