On Thursday, Trigg County Hospital along with Dr. Carl Hinton provided free skin cancer screenings to the public in the hospital’s surgery center. People filled the waiting room, even lining up down the hospital’s halls at the chance to have the doctor check out any suspicious spots.
This came on the eve of the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention’s “Don’t Fry Day” on Friday. As we head into Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, they want people to be aware of skin cancer risk factors and how to best protect themselves.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, Kentucky ranks among the worst states when it comes to the rate of skin cancer. As of 2013, Kentucky was ranked 5th highest in the country for skin cancer deaths.
It’s hard to know what unique factors contribute to the commonwealth’s high rate of skin cancer, but there are several preventative measures you can take to keep you or your family from becoming part of this staggering statistic.
Overexposure to the sun is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. If you are going to be outside, take note of the day’s UV index so you can plan your protection accordingly. UV exposure causes more than 90 percent of melanomas in the United States.
Though it’s recommended you use some sort of skin protection every day, a UV index of 6 or higher is considered dangerous and extra precautions should be taken. You can check the UV index on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website (www.epa.gov).
Forms of protection against UV rays include sunscreen (preferably with an SPF of 15 or higher), protective clothing like wide-brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts, and sunglasses, and staying in the shade when you’re outdoors for an extended period of time.
You should also avoid tanning beds and other artificial sources of UV light. If tanning is something you just can’t give up, seek out non-UV alternatives like self-tanning lotions or spray tans. Keep in mind that what may look like a ‘summer glow’ to you now is actually a sign of damaged skin that can lead to wrinkles and an increased risk of melanoma in the future.
It’s also important to do monthly self-checks to make sure you catch any signs of skin cancer early. For this, remember the “ABCDEs” of melanoma:
• “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
• “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
• “C” stands for color. Is the color uneven?
• “D” stands for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
• “E” stands for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed in the past few weeks or months?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions while doing a self-check, you should talk to your doctor. Also take note of any new growth, sores that don’t heal, or changes in an old growth.
Though anyone can get melanoma, you are at a higher risk if you have naturally light skin, a personal or family history of skin cancer, a history of sunburns or indoor tanning, blue or green eyes, or blond or red hair.
For more information about skin cancer prevention and awareness, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/ or www.skincancerprevention.org.