Fun in the Sun: The Hidden Risk of Melanoma

Fun in the Sun: The Hidden Risk of Melanoma

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. Rising temperatures, bluebird skies, and lake days spent soaking up sun rays after a long winter. Spending time outside is a great way to stay active and get Vitamin D, but it can pose serious health concerns. Before you head outside, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center Oncology-Hematology Provider Ashley Yager APRN, AG-ACNP, FNP wants to make sure you’re playing it safe. “The most important preventive measure is to wear sunscreen year-round. Minnesota actually has the second-highest incidence of cutaneous melanoma in the country, based on 2020 statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control, despite a relatively low UV index. Just one blistering sunburn can double your risk of melanoma.” Nationwide, in 2020, there were 77,230 new cases of skin melanomas reported, and the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group reports that 8,214 people died.

Melanoma skin cancer typically has an irregular shape and different colors. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network describes it as ‘one of the most serious types of skin cancer’ because it spreads beyond the skin more often than other skin cancers. However, if discovered early, it is curable with the right treatment. This potentially deadly skin cancer can be found anywhere on the body. It’s recommended you use the ABCDE rule to help detect the signs of melanoma, which the National Comprehensive Cancer Network has identified as:

Asymmetry – One half of a mole or spot does not match the other half.

Border – The edges of a spot seem irregular and are difficult to define.

Color – The color of the spot is not the same throughout (may be brown, black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue).

Diameter – The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about the size of a pencil eraser).

Evolving – Changes in the size, shape, or color of the spot or mole.

While the exact cause of melanoma is unknown, there are many ways you can protect your skin and still enjoy the outdoors. The CDC recommends wearing a hat and sunglasses, staying in the shade of a tree or umbrella, opting to wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts or pants, and planning activities when it’s not the heat of the day during the morning, late afternoon, or evening. Finally, make sure you’re applying sunscreen. The CDC recommends wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that filters both UVA and UVB rays. If you plan to be outside for extended periods of time, be sure to reapply, as sunscreen wears off.

If you suspect you have melanoma or would like any skin spots looked at, make sure to see your dermatologist. You can schedule an appointment with Paul Lundstrom, MD by calling 218-454-7546.

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