As you bask in the sun and frolic in the surf this summer, it’s important to protect yourself against melanoma and other skin cancers. So we asked Stuart Zweibel, MD, PhD, a physician at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates-Westchester Dermatology and Mohs Surgery, to give us his best advice on how to do just that.
Early Detection is Key. “The vast majority of poor outcomes are preventable if you catch the cancer early enough,” he says.
Know the Warning Signs. Non-healing growths are a major warning sign. “A skin cancer can also appear to heal for six months or a year, but then can reappear in the same spot.”
See a Dermatologist. “Everyone should have a baseline exam with a dermatologist.”
Apply a Good Sunscreen. “Almost all non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater decreases the risk of squamous-cell skin cancer by 40 percent, and melanoma by 50 percent.”
Practice “Reasonable Avoidance.” Wear protective clothing, stay out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and apply sunscreen 30 to 60 minutes before you go out.
Know the A, B, C, D, and E Criteria for Melanoma:
“A is for asymmetry, meaning that the growth is not symmetrical.”
“B is for borders. If the mole’s borders become indistinct, notched, or show any unusual change, it should be checked.”
“C is for color.” Look for unusual colors, such as red and blue, as well as uneven distribution.
“D is for diameter.” If a mole is larger than a [pencil-top] eraser head, see your doctor.
“E is for evolution.” If a mole is changing, Zweibel says, “evolution is warranted.”