Believe it or now, it will quit snowing sometime and the sun will come out, and that's why May is known as Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
While people of certain ethnicities - such as Scandinavians - tend to be more prone to melanoma and other skin cancer, skin cancer is probably the most preventable cancer that there is.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, afflicting more than two million Americans each year, a number that is rising rapidly. It is also the easiest to cure, if diagnosed and treated early. When allowed to progress, however, skin cancer can result in disfigurement and even death.
If you have children, begin teaching them how to at an early age so they can do it themselves by the time they are teens. Coupled with yearly skin exams by a doctor, self-exams are the best way to ensure that you don't become a statistic in the battle against skin cancer.
Performed regularly, self-examination can alert you to changes in your skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer. It should be done often enough to become a habit, but not so often as to feel like a bother. For most people, once a month is ideal, but ask your doctor if you should do more frequent checks.
You may find it helpful to have a doctor do a full-body exam first, to assure you that any existing spots, freckles, or moles are normal or treat any that may not be. After the first few times, self-examination should take no more than 10 minutes - a small investment in what could be a life-saving procedure.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Because each has many different appearances, it is important to know the early warning signs. Look especially for change of any kind. Do not ignore a suspicious spot simply because it does not hurt. Skin cancers may be painless, but dangerous all the same. If you notice one or more of the warning signs, see a doctor right away, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin.
Warning signs include:
n A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black or multicolored
n A mole, birthmark, beauty mark or any brown spot that changes color, increases in size or thickness, changes in texture, is irregular in outline, is bigger than 6mm or a quarter inch, the size of a pencil eraser or appears after age 21.
n A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode or bleed.
n An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.
If you should spot something suspicious, don't overlook it. Don't delay. See a physician, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin, if you note any change in an existing mole, freckle or spot or if you find a new one with any of the warning signs of skin cancer.
Protection, prevention and detection - those are the keys to dealing with skin cancer.
And if you don't remember anything else, remember this - you'll have it made in the shade.