Summer Sun Brings Melanoma Danger
Be aware of the risks of skin cancer
Mary (not her real name) didn’t come to my office thinking she had a skin cancer. She was only 34 years old. She came in for a rash. While examining her back, I noticed a small mole, not much bigger than a pinhead, but I quickly recommended a biopsy. It revealed what I suspected: a very early stage melanoma. That rash saved Mary’s life. The lesion was surgically removed, and now she comes in for regular skin checks. She also got rid of her tanning bed, which was probably a major factor for developing melanoma.
Who is at risk of getting melanoma?
• People with UV light exposure are at the biggest risk. Sunlight is the most common cause, but tanning beds cause a significant increase in all forms of skin cancer. Avoid tanning at high-risk times (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.), wear sunscreen, hats, protective clothing, and never use a tanning bed.
• People with large numbers of moles, particularly atypical moles, are at a higher risk. If this is you, be especially mindful of mole changes.
• Fair skin, freckles and light hair are indicators of people with little natural protection from UV rays.
• A family history or personal history of melanoma also puts you at an increased risk.
• Age, a compromised immune system, or male gender also increases your risk. You should remember, however, that everyone is at risk, not just the elderly.
What should you watch for? We often refer to watching for the ABCDE’s of moles:
A. Asymmetic shape – one side of the mole is shaped differently than the other.
B. Border – the border is not smooth but notched, irregular or scalloped.
C. Color – multiple colors or changing color.
D. Diameter – bigger than a pencil eraser.
E. Evolving – change in size, shape, color or new symptoms such as bleeding. Not every new or changing mole is a skin cancer. This is why you need to consult a health-care provider about these changes and also why everyone should have a complete mole exam once a year.
In addition, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the five S’s of sun safety –
1. SLIP on a T-shirt.
2. SLOP on SPF 30+ sunscreen with UVA protection.
3. SLAP on a big hat.
4. SLIDE on quality sunglasses.
5. SHADE from the sun whenever possible.
We at Ark-La-Tex Dermatology strongly support regular skin cancer checks. Watch for our annual Melanoma Monday – a free cancer screening. We do this almost every year with the help of our sponsors, Willis Knighton and the American Academy of Dermatology. Visit wkhs.com to register for the event or call (318) 212-8225.
Dr. Josephine Futrell is a dermatologist and partner in Ark-La-Tex Dermatology, which has offices in Shreveport and Bossier City.
Free Skin Cancer Screenings on Melanoma Monday
Dermatologists at Ark-La-Tex Dermatology, part of the Willis-Knighton Physician Network, will offer free skin cancer screenings on Melanoma Monday, May 3, as part of Melanoma Awareness Month. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can be effectively treated when identified at an early stage.
The screenings will be conducted by Josephine Futrell, MD, Ph.D., Sarah Baker, MD, Sarah Glorioso, MD, and Elizabeth Clemons, MD, members of the American Academy of Dermatology, the professional organization that promotes Melanoma Monday. Each brief screening includes a visual check.
Shreveport screenings will be conducted in the Shreveport office, 1811 East Bert Kouns Industrial Loop, Suite 160, from 8 a.m. to noon with Dr. Glorioso and from 1 to 5 p.m. with Dr. Clemons.
Bossier screenings will be conducted in Ark- La-Tex Dermatology’s Bossier City office, 2300 Hospital Drive, Suite 400, from 8 a.m. to noon with Dr. Futrell and from 1 to 5 p.m. with Dr. Baker.
Registration for the screening is available online at wkhs.com under “Classes and Events” or by calling the Willis-Knighton Community Education helpline at (318) 212-8225.