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Take care in the sun this Summer!

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

During the month of May, designated as Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Andrea Alexander M.D. and Rachel Gilbert, PA-C are reminding all Seminole County and Southwest Georgia residents that everyone is at risk for skin cancer – this Summer and every day of the year.

 One in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime.  More than 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.  It’s the most common type of cancer in our country and worldwide.

Prevention is essential.  Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for developing skin cancer.  To protect your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun, you should wear sun-protective clothing (wide-brimmed hats, UPF clothing) and sunscreen.  Sunscreens that have a sun protective factor (SPF) of 30 or higher are best. You should apply sunscreen at least 15-20 minutes before going outside.  Most sunscreens aren’t active immediately after applied to the skin.  Reapply your sunscreen every two hours even if it’s water-proof or sweat-proof.  It’s also very important to make sure that your sunscreen has both UVA and UVB protection. UVB exposure increases your risk of skin cancer. UVA causes wrinkling and pigment changes. Seek shade if you are outside between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. because this is when the sun’s rays are strongest.  Water, snow, and sand reflect UV rays which can increase your risk of sunburn. Avoid tanning beds, which increase your risk of premature aging and skin cancer! 

Actinic keratoses are precancerous lesions that are very common.  They can progress into squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated.  They typically present as scaly spots on the face or arms.  Dermatologists have many options for treating these lesions.  It’s always best to have them treated as soon as they appear. 

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common type of skin cancer. They are most frequently found on the face, ears, scalp, and arms.  Basal cell cancers can present as a pimple-like lesion that may come and go in the same spot.  Squamous cell cancers are usually pink, scaly lesions that may be raised or tender. If left untreated, they can lead to severe disfigurement.

Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. At least one American dies of melanoma every hour.  Melanoma may appear suddenly or may develop in an existing mole.  It can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on the upper back, lower legs, head, and neck.  Melanoma can spread to your lymph nodes and internal organs.  Early detection is essential.  New, rapidly growing moles or moles that itch, bleed, or change in color can be early signs of melanoma.  These lesions should be checked by a dermatologist.

Please contact your local dermatologist for evaluation if you notice a lesion that is changing, itching, or bleeding.  Skin cancer is highly treatable when detected early. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a complete skin check yearly even if you have no history of abnormal moles or skin cancer.  If you have a history of skin cancer, you should be evaluated more frequently by your dermatologist.  

Dr. Andrea Alexander M.D. and Rachel Gilbert, PA-C are  available to answer any questions you may have about this article. Contact them at their ofice in Donalsonvile at (229)524-2808 ext 121 Monday-Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.,. and on Friday from 8:00 a.m. -until 12:00 p.m. 

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