Q. My mother is concerned about my sun tanning habits, but I use sunscreen most of the time and only sunburn at the beginning of the summer and then tan. I am only 34 years old and don’t think I have any problems with my skin. Should I have any concern about skin cancer at such a young age?
A. Skin cancer is no joke. There were more skin cancers (basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer, and melanomas) in 2009 than all other types of cancer combined. Treatment and cure rely on early diagnosis and treatment. Anyone can develop skin cancer; however, there are risk factors that increase an individual’s chances of developing skin cancer, such as light skin or eye color, freckling, sunburns in the past, and a family history of skin cancer.
In order to increase earlier diagnosis of melanomas and other skin cancers, a test for moles and suspicious lesions called “ABCDE” was created. The “A” stands for “asymmetry”; the “B” stands for irregular “borders”; the “C” stands for variation in “color” in the same lesion; the “D” stands for “diameter” larger than a pencil eraser (6mm); and the “E” stands for “evolving” lesions, which are characterized by change in symmetry, borders, shape, color, diameter or symptoms over time.
Moles and suspicious lesions that fulfill the ABCDE criteria can be biopsied to confirm a diagnosis. Early diagnosis allows adequate treatment and cure and identifies benign lesions, which require no further treatment.
Don’t forget that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of repair. Be safe in the sun. Adequate sunscreen use with broad spectrum UVB/UVA products, especially with micronized zinc oxide such as Rx Systems PF Facial Moisturizer SPF 35 and sun avoidance during peak UV hours (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.) can reduce the chances of skin cancer.