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Healthwise: Skin Protection

May 9, 2012

With the beginning of summer just a few weeks away, temperatures are heating up, and you could be spending more time under the sun rays. Doctors in Charlottesville are saying now is the time to start thinking about protecting your skin.

Dermatologist Anna Magee of Charlottesville Dermatology says there are three types of skin cancer you should be on the look out for: Melanoma, Basil Cell Carcinoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. The tricky thing about these cancers is that they are not always visible to you.

"Sometimes they're on areas that are hard to find like the back areas that you can't see very easily and sometimes they can be quite subtle," said Magee.

Magee mentions that your skin may have a couple of different symptoms for each type of skin cancer.

"A mole that changes in size, shape, or color-those are the signs for Melanoma. The signs of a Basil Cell or Squamous Cell Carcinoma are more sore areas that heal. It could be a scaly, thickened spot from sun exposed areas like the face, nose, forearms, and the hands," said Magee.

Magee warns that skin cancer is a serious disease that if left untreated, can spread and become fatal. It is important to be aware of those signs listed.

"If a person knows what to look for, they'll be able to say 'oh gosh, this mole is changing, I need to have it checked out.' That early detection of Melanoma is really key to trying to treat that person early and saving that person's life," said Magee.

You don't have to be diagnosed with skin cancer to make a change in your lifestyle. There are many measures to take to prevent the disease such as limiting sun exposure or wearing special clothing with sun protection already built in.

"Sun protection is so important. You should avoid the sun at the highest time of the day (10a.m. until 4p.m.) and protect your skin if you do have to be out in the sun by wearing a good sunscreen that gives you adequate protection. I recommend an SPF of 30 or higher," said Magee.

You are more at risk for skin cancer if you are fair-skinned, use a tanning bed with Ultra Violet "A" Rays, or have a family history of skin cancer. If you would like to get checked out, Martha Jefferson Hospital is holding a free skin cancer screening Saturday.


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