Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be deadly if not detected early. It is caused by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, but it is most commonly found on the face, neck, arms, and legs. In honor of May being Melanoma Awareness Month, we want to take a look at the best ways to prevent and detect this common form of cancer.

Preventing Melanoma

Fortunately, melanoma can typically be prevented with proper precautions. Here are some of the most effective ways to prevent melanoma:

Protect Your Skin From the Sun

One of the best ways to prevent melanoma is by protecting your skin from the sun. Here are some tips to help you keep your skin properly protected when the sun is shining:

  • Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and apply it generously to all exposed areas of skin
  • Make an effort to seek shade during peak sun hours, which are typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Never intentionally expose your skin to the sun

Avoid Tanning Beds

Regularly using tanning beds can significantly increase your risk of developing melanoma. If you want to minimize your risk of developing the condition, it's best to avoid tanning beds altogether. Rather than spending time in the tanning bed, consider using self-tanning products.

Detecting Melanoma Early

Detecting melanoma early is crucial for successful treatment. One very helpful tool for detecting early signs of melanoma is the “ABCDE” rule. This rule stands for “asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, diameter larger than a pencil eraser, and evolving.” If a mole or spot on your skin has any of these characteristics, it is important to have it checked by a dermatologist. Ideally, you should perform regular self-checks of your skin to give yourself the best chance of spotting any abnormalities early. Here are some tips to help you perform a skin exam properly:

  • Examine your skin from head to toe, including your scalp, palms, soles, and nails
  • Look for any moles, freckles, or other spots that are changing in size, shape, or color
  • If you notice any changes in your skin, see a dermatologist right away

If you have a higher risk of developing melanoma, you should also have a dermatologist or other healthcare professional perform a full-body skin exam at least once per year. During the exam, the healthcare professional will examine the skin for any unusual growths or changes in existing moles. They may also use a dermatoscope, a handheld device that magnifies the skin, to get a closer look at any suspicious spots.

What Is the Takeaway?

With May being Melanoma Awareness Month, it’s imperative that you and your loved ones understand how to prevent and detect this common type of cancer. As long as you’re careful to take good care of your skin and know whether or not you’re at an increased risk for the condition, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of developing late-stage melanoma. If you’re looking to start taking better care of your skin, you can always schedule a consultation with one of our skin care specialists at Gold Coast Plastic Surgery.

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