Skin Cancer and the Sun| What you need to know

How often do you consider the UV index?

Living in one of the sunniest areas of the country has its perks, whether it's lounging at Zilker Park or taking a dip at Jacob's Well. 

But all that sunshine has its price.

"Tanning should be equivalent more instead of to looking good to that sun damage," explained Dr. Heidi Prather, a dermatologist with Westlake Dermatology in Austin.

While people are quick to check the temperature, feels like temperature, and humidity before leaving the home, far fewer pay attention to the UV index. The five-marker scale provides information about suggested sun protection.

"What we know about UV rays and the damage that it causes is that UVA is going to penetrate through the atmosphere, and penetrate deeper into the skin.  It was initially thought that it may not cause as much cancer as UVB, but more and more information is showing that it causes equal, if not more DNA damage," said Dr. Prather.

Over the past couple years, Dr. Prather said they've seen an increase in skin cancer amongst those in their 20's and 30's.

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime, and a person dies from melanoma once every 54 minutes.

"We must keep in mind that melanoma is a quickly, climbing worry that we have in younger populations," Dr. Prather explained.

While the summer can bring consistent high UV markers, Dr. Prather suggests people wear sunscreen in Texas year-round, saying it should be at least SPF 30. 

Self-detection is key, as no area of the body is immune from skin cancer.

So what should you look for?

Dr. Prather shared this A-B-C-D-E chart of Melanoma:

A) Asymmetry - does one-half of the mole look different than the other?

B) Border - is it irregularly shaped?

C) Color - does the color vary?

D) Diameter - Is it larger than 6 millimeters - the size of a pencil eraser?

E) Evolving - has the mole grown in size?

The American Academy of Dermatology created this chart to help illustrate the ABCDE's of melanoma.

While no area is immune, Dr. Prather noted there are some patterns to keep an eye on.

"Women have an increased rate of melanoma on the back of their calves, and on their backs. Whereas you can see melanoma in African-Americans have (the increased rate) on their palms and their soles," Dr. Prather explained.

For the two other forms of skin cancer- basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma - there are different things to watch for.

"These will often appear as little pink to white spots that sometimes can look like acne, in the case of basal cells. In the case of squamous cell cancer, they will look more like red, scaly patches," said Dr. Prather.

For more information on cancerous moles, click here

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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