Show the skin you’re in a little extra love this May in honor of Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. Weston Waxweiler, M.D., of North Atlanta Dermatology dispels skin cancer myths and shares tips for successful self-examinations.
Myth vs. Fact:
I have olive/darker skin. I don’t need to use sunscreen and am not going to get skin cancer.
False, people with darker skin can and do get skin cancer. Bob Marley died of melanoma. It can be more difficult to detect a skin cancer in these skin types so the diagnosis often is delayed, leading to worsened outcomes.
I only get sun once a year and therefore am not worried about my skin cancer risk.
Intermittent acute sun exposure (one or two bad burns a year) can raise your risk
for melanoma exponentially. Brief, intense sun exposure overwhelms your body’s DNA repair mechanisms, allowing mutations to build up in your skin cells that later lead to skin cancer.
It’s cloudy, so I don’t need to worry about sun protection.
While clouds block most of the visible spectrum of light, unfortunately, they fail to block UV light (a wavelength of the sun’s energy that is impossible to see but causes skin cancer). That means even on cloudy or winter days, we must be careful to utilize sun protection.
I don’t have moles, so I’m not at risk for skin cancer.
People with abundant moles are at higher risk for skin cancer, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is exempt. People need to watch for any changes in individual moles, or skin spots. Some skin cancers, including melanoma, can appear as just pink bumps that don’t go away.
Self-checks, as well as regular screenings with a dermatologist, can be vital in protecting yourself against skin cancer and catching it early. Be on the lookout for the following signs:
• Surface appears to be changing–scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a raised bump or papule
• Wound/sore that does not heal after one month
• Redness or swelling beyond the border of a mole or other lesion
• Change in sensation (more itchy/painful)
• Changing mole or lesion that is growing