Health Watch - Skin Cancer - Part One

During Elizabethan times having fair skin was a sign of wealth. Today it's the perfect tan that seems to turn heads.

As we all know that can also lead to some unwanted consequences. But fair skinned people are the most vulnerable to developing skin cancer.

What price are you paying to achieve that look? Some paying with their lives.

People line our beaches every year hoping to catch a few rays. But, Dermatologist Dr. Jon Ward says the rays you catch can turn on you down the road, transforming that perfect tan into leathery like skin or worse...cancer.

Florida has the highest rate in the country and it's due to a lot of people being out in the sun getting sun burns."

Just a few years ago people were obsessed with getting the darkest tan possible, even resorting to using baby oil or butter to actually cook their skin. Now they have tanning beds to do basically the same thing.

Dr. Ward says while there are conflicting studies about whether that's the safest way to tan, the fact remains too much sun, fake or not, can kill you.

"Everything in moderation. There is some information about your body needing to make vitamin D, but you actually get enough vitamin D from the ultraviolet light you'd get just walking outdoors for 5 or 10 minutes with out sunscreen. Anything more than that is probably to excess."

But living in the Sunshine State, it's easy to get too much sun without even realizing it. That's why putting on sunscreen has to be as much a habit as putting on your sun glasses.

“The most important thing is to protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen that is SPF 30 or greater. It's important for the sunscreen to have a broad spectrum of ultraviolet protection which is no something you see from the number. Particularly you need to look for the ingredients zinc oxide, titanium dioxide parcel 1789 or neveril."

If the damage from years of sun is already done, regular screenings are a must.

"Anytime that a spot pops up and you're not sure what it is, the safest thing to do is go see a doctor, preferably a dermatologist, but primary care doctors are usually proficient in diagnosing skin cancer as well."

Check moles and skin spots for anything irregular. The American Academy of Dermatology has set up guidelines you can follow.
“They like for us to tell people... A-B-C-D-E
A stands for asymmetry.
B stands for border irregularity
C for color variability
D for diameter greater than a pencil eraser.
E for enlarging or evolving moles.

“Most skin cancers are very treatable, especially when caught early. Most of the skin cancer found during routine skin screening are very superficial skin cancers that can be treated in the office. No further treatment like radiation or chemotherapy is necessary when it's caught early.”

Skin cancer can show up anywhere, even where there hasn't been significant sun exposure.

A full skin exam is the best tool to pick up cancers.
You may not realize it, but you could have moles on places you would never think to look, like the bottom of your feet.

Also many people don't realize it's the dark, flat moles that can kill you. Moles that have been there since birth are the kind that will frequently change later on in life to become malignant.

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