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Spot It Early: Lifesaving Lesson About Skin Cancer

San Diego, California (NAPSI) - Whenever you’re under the sun, whether it’s summer or winter, it’s important to guard  against sun damage.

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the No. 1 cause of  skin cancer, and it often doesn’t develop until later in life.

Take, for example, retiree Adelbert “Mac”   McIntyre, who now lives in Hawaii.  Between his day job laying gas pipelines in San Diego and his free time spent on the  beach, Mac found both his life’s work and his relaxation in the  sunshine.

All that sunlight took a toll. When he had a routine physical, Kaiser  Permanente doctors found a small spot on McIntyre’s chest that caused  some suspicion. “They said it looked rather peculiar,” he  remembered. Test results confirmed that suspicion—McIntyre had  melanoma.

Melanoma  is the third most common type of skin cancer, but it’s by far the most  deadly because it can spread to a person’s lymph nodes and organs. The National Cancer  Institute estimates that one in 50 men and women will be diagnosed with  melanoma during their lifetimes. More than 9,000 people in the United States  will die from the disease this year.

“When caught early, melanoma is highly treatable,” said Amy   Reisenauer, M.D., a Kaiser Permanente  dermatologist. Although doctors removed McIntyre’s skin cancer twice in  one year, he forgot to follow up with his dermatologist. The cancer developed  for a third time.

“I think it’s probably human nature to feel like, well, I had  something on my skin, it was a skin cancer, but they cut it out, so it’s  done,” said Dr. Reisenauer. “But in fact-especially  with melanoma-there is a risk for it to spread to other parts of the body,  and you really do need to be seen on a regular  basis.”

Fortunately, a newly created melanoma patient registry flagged McIntyre’s  missed visit. Kaiser Permanente scheduled another appointment, and just in  time. Dr. Reisenauer discovered melanoma on his  back early enough to remove it successfully.

While some people may not be so lucky, the good news is that many types of  skin cancer are easy to prevent and most can be cured if caught early. You  can see a video about McIntyre’s story at www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtBwBq8O5c8.  

These lifesaving tips can help you protect yourself against skin cancer  all year long.

Who’s At Risk For Melanoma

Though men over  50 are most at risk for developing melanoma, there is a rise in young  women developing melanoma as well. But these demographics are not exclusive,  and often, men and women who develop melanoma are dealing with fallout from  sun damage that began when they were children.

How To Spot Melanoma

Melanoma can be found with a simple self-examination using a full-length  mirror. At its earliest stage, melanoma is usually identifiable by oddly  shaped moles or marks that appear on the body. Know the “ABCDs” of melanoma:

• A is for Asymmetry. One  half of the mole looks different from the other half.

• B is for Border  Irregularity. The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.

• C is for Color. Watch  for shades of red and black, or a red, white and blue mottled appearance.

• D is for Diameter. The  mole is larger than a pencil eraser. (Harmless moles are usually smaller than  this.)

A self-exam for any of these symptoms should be done once a month.

How To Prevent Skin Cancer

• Avoid the sun when its rays are the strongest-between 10 a.m. and  3 p.m.

• Wear clothing to protect exposed skin—a wide-brimmed hat,  long pants, sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt.

• Apply sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with a  sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Look for all these terms (UVA,  UVB and SPF) on the label.

• Reapply sunscreen every two hours for maximum protection from UVA  and UVB rays.

• Avoid indoor tanning.

Where To Learn More

Visit kp.org  for more information and sfy.co/jLf3  to see a transcript of a recent #kphealthychat on  Twitter with Kaiser Permanente dermatologist Jeffrey   Benabio, M.D. For questions or advice about a  specific condition, always consult with your physician.