Simple steps reduce risk of skin cancer

Summer has arrived and many of us are out in the sun with our skin exposed and in need of protection. That applies to everyone, including those with year-round exposure and tanned skin.

And although it may be inconvenient and unappealing to some to wear protective clothing and hats and use sunscreen, I promise you it is worth the trouble to help prevent skin cancers.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types, with 3.5 million cases per year. There are three basic types of skin cancer.

Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers usually grow slowly and as long as they are dealt with early, can usually be easily excised. However, if left untreated for a long time they can require extensive surgery to remove and can even spread, though rarely.

Malignant melanoma is the least common (only 2 percent of all skin cancers), but it is the most serious skin cancer because it can easily spread and be fatal.

Prevention of skin cancer is the smartest move you can make. Here's how:

• Use sunscreen! SPF 30 or higher - and throw a little extra strong sunscreen or some zinc oxide on that schnozz and a hat on that noggin of yours!

• Put some clothes on over the sun-exposed area - use lightweight apparel when it is hot, of course, but beware that not all cloth will block UV sun rays.

• Try and avoid too much exposure during the brightest part of the day - 10 a.m.-4 p.m. - you will be less likely to heat stroke out, also.

• Check your medications to see if any make you super sensitive to the sun.

• In case you haven't already guessed - don't use tanning beds.

Monitor your skin for changes in moles/pigmented spots and for new moles and spot. Also watch for:

• Irregular shapes or borders.

• Variation of color within the same mole. Benign moles usually are a single color, but melanoma can have many colors or shades in the same lesion.

• New moles need to be looked at closely.

• Monitor all your pigmented areas - get a mirror or a friend (a really good one) to help with areas you cannot easily see or see a dermatologist for screening exams.

The main plan here is to prevent skin cancer from happening and if it does develop, to catch it early!

As always, check with your own physician to apply any information to your own health concerns/issues.

Dr. Valerie Israel is a hematologist-oncologist at Kingman Regional Medical Center Cancer Center. She completed her medical degree at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Southern California and completed her internship and residency in Internal Medicine and Fellowships in Hematology and in Medical Oncology at University of Southern California/ Los Angeles County Hospital.

Future columns will address various blood and cancer diseases, but also topics such as pain control, hospice care, doctor-patient relationships, and even the mind-body connection.

Have a question or a column topic idea? Contact Dr. Israel at