Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers. Approximately one in six people will develop skin cancer. Medical experts unanimously agree that overexposure to sunlight is the main culprit. Other factors include sunburn with blistering especially during childhood, skin creams that contain tar if used over a prolonged period, repeated X-rays, exposure to coal and arsenic, radiation, chemotherapy and family history. Freckles with fair skin that doesn't tan very easily can also put one at risk.
Most skin cancers grow slowly. It is imperative you inspect your body on a regular basis for anything unusual. Stand in front of a full length mirror and with a hand held mirror check out every inch of your skin. Have someone check the top of your head as well. You should know your body in detail, so that when something different rears its ugly head, you notice it immediately!
Watch for any unusual spots. Look for lesions, moles or spots that are asymmetrical in shape. Observe for any colored spot that grows bigger or develops an uneven color or irregular, ragged edge. Look for any nodules or patches that are red and scaly, as this can be a squamous cell carcinoma which can metastasize (spread). Other symptoms to look for are changes in the surface of a mole. If you notice the mole is raised above the skin and has a rough surface, is scaly, oozing, bleeding or there is development of bumps on any mole, seek medical attention. In other words anything that develops that wasn't on your body before should be investigated by your physician.
Skin cancer has a high cure rate if caught early. Excision of the lesion is the most common treatment. Self examination is the key to early detection with a regular visit to your doctor for check ups.
The best methods to avoid skin cancer are to avoid the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Wear a sunscreen if you are out doors with an SPF of at least 15 or more, applied thirty minutes before going into the sun. Put the sunscreen everywhere the suns rays will hit you. Don't forget your ears and men don't forget any bald areas on top of your head. If you have to be out in the sun, use a wide brimmed hat or cap. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. Choose sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses can help prevent cataracts as well. Wear long sleeve shirts and pants if it is not sweltering hot, to better protect your body. Don't use tanning salons as they can damage your skin just like the sun.
Of course there is the controversy that you need some sun in order NOT to be vitamin D deficient. I know it is hard at times to completely avoid the sun. A few minutes of sun occasionally with a good sun screen, should not be too harmful, as long as you watch the time of day and check your body on a regular basis. Also too much sun can contribute to wrinkles. Avoidance is best, but not always possible. Hence, just be very careful and check, check, check your body regularly (monthly if possible). Go to your doctor immediately when you notice any irregularities. Keep healthy!