Melanoma Monday raises awareness about skin cancer

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PEORIA, Ariz. -- May is Skin Cancer Awareness month. And on Monday's Good Morning Arizona, Heidi Goitia brought us advice from experts about preventing skin cancer and becoming more aware of the risks of the sun.

The American Academy of Dermatology and Spectrum Dermatology helped host the Melanoma Monday event, which is designed to promote early detection and prevention of skin cancer.

Often, parents are diligent about putting sunscreen on their kids, but they often forget about themselves. Doctors remind us that everyone should wear sunscreen, and that it's not just people with light skin who are at risk of getting skin cancer.

"It's true that people who are fair, who have skin that burns easily, are at highest risk," says Dr. Walter Quan of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. "But you can have a darker complexion and still be at risk."

He advises regular skin cancer checks, and mentions the "A,B,C,D, E Rule."

A. Asymmetry - Look for moles that are asymmetrical, and one half is different than the other half.
B. Border Irregularity - The edges are notched, uneven, or blurred.
C. Color - The color is uneven. Shades of brown, tan, and black are present.
D. Diameter - Diameter is greater than 6 millimeters.
E. Enlarged - Look for anything enlarged or elevated.

Dr. Quan says you should check your skin regularly, at least once a month. "Melanoma and skin cancer in general is based on radiation exposure," he says. "Melanoma used to be the cancer with the middle age of about 61. Now the median age is 51 years old. The big part of it is we get so much sun exposure before the age of 18, and the amount of sun exposure that children get is particularly intense."

You can't change what's already happened to your skin but you can prevent further damage. "The fact is, tan skin is sun-damaged skin," says Dr. Quan.

Sunscreen is key in preventing sun damage. Dermatologist Paul English says many people use sunscreen, but most people don't apply enough and they don't apply it frequently enough. "We definitely want to find sunblocks that are both UVA and UVB protection," says Dr. English. That can also mean "broad- spectrum."

You should also look for a sunblock of at least SPF 30 or higher. Also, when you use a spray, it's often hard to apply sunscreen evenly or to apply enough.

You can take part in a free skin cancer screening happening next Monday, May 12 from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at Desert Ridge Marketplace. Call 623-207-3797 for an appointment. Walk-ins are also welcome.