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Published on April 25, 2018

Signs of Skin Cancer and Prevention For Adults and Kids

Signs of Skin Cancer

In this series:

Signs of Skin Cancer and Prevention Tips

Protecting your skin from day one is the best way to try to prevent skin cancer at any stage of life. If you know you’ll be spending time in the sun, use these tips to protect your skin:

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Apply a full ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) of sunscreen every 90 minutes while outside.
  • Choose a water-resistant sunscreen that will last longer.
  • Apply sunscreen before you go outside or get in the water so it doesn’t wear off immediately.

There are three forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Individuals should examine their skin for common signs of skin cancer including a new spot or growth that bleeds, scabs and does not heal.

A basal cell carcinoma can appear as a pearly red bump while a squamous cell carcinoma often looks like a red, scaly area or a sore that will not heal. Specifically, with melanoma (the least common, yet most dangerous form of skin cancer), individuals should use the ABCDE guidelines when examining their bodies:

  • A – Asymmetry – one half, unlike the other half.
  • B – Border Irregularity – irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
  • C – Color variation and/or change – varied from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue.
  • D – Diameter more than 6 mm (pencil eraser size) and/or change in diameter.
  • E – Evolving – a mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

The earlier melanoma and other skin cancers are detected, the easier they are to treat. Therefore, it is extremely important to seek the advice of a medical professional if you detect an abnormal area on your skin. Cone Health has a network of dermatologists, cancer care specialists and other related healthcare providers dedicated to educating the community about skin cancer and providing exceptional treatment.

Laura Lomax, MD, is a dermatologist in Greensboro and a member of the Cone Health Medical Staff.

Protecting Your Kids

It is important to begin teaching children at a young age about protecting themselves from sun exposure, as this will instill good habits. Parents can make it fun by teaching their children fun methods, such as looking to see if their shadow is shorter than them when they are outside. If it is, then that means it is the time of day when the sun’s rays are the strongest and they should try to find shade.

Of course, sunscreen is always an essential part of protecting your children from sunburn and skin damage. Here are some key guidelines to remember when applying sunscreen on your children, as well as yourself.

  • Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of thirty or higher.
  • Apply generously thirty minutes before going outside.
  • Continue to re-apply throughout the day. No sunscreens are fully waterproof.
  • Remember to rub in spray-on sunscreen and avoid inhaling it.
  • Choose sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

Christine Brannock, RN, BS, OCN, is the oncology outreach manager at the Cone Health Cancer Center at Wesley Long Hospital.