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544456_sxc.huMay is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention month, the perfect time to brush up on ways to protect your loved ones, since warmer weather means more time spent soaking up the sun.

Each year, 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed, making it the most common form of cancer in the United States. The good news is that skin cancer is easily cured if detected early, so doctors recommend that you perform a monthly self-examination.

Here’s what to look for:

  • A skin growth that increases in size and looks pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black or multicolored.
  • Any brown spot  (including moles, birthmarks, etc.) that:
    • changes color or texture
    • increases in size or thickness
    • is irregular in outline
    • is larger than ¼ inch
    • appears after age 21

Here are a few ways you can protect your skin when spending time outside:

  • Generously apply a water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher whenever outside, even on cloudy days. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear breathable, protective clothing, such as a long-sleeve shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as the sun’s rays are strongest during this time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone can develop skin cancer, but there are certain people who are at a higher risk:

  • Fairer skin color
  • History of skin cancer
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Work and play sun exposure
  • Sunburns that occurred early in life
  • Skin that burns easily, has freckles, reddens, or experiences pain in the sun
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Natural blond or red hair

Remember that the chance for successful treatment depends on early detection. To stay ahead, make an appointment with a dermatologist annually for a skin exam.

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