Skin Cancer Awareness Month  By Dr. Jason Rivers  

By Pacific Derm on May 19 2021

I am sure you have heard the expression “are your ears burning”.   Figuratively you may want to hear what I have to say and literally, you may actually burn your ears (and other parts) if you are not careful this summer. It has been a challenging and long year for all of us – we thought Covid would be a thing of the past by now and we could hug our friends again and lie in the sun to re-ignite our souls.  Not to ruin that image BUT when you do go out, think of the future and your skin.

There have been myths that vitamin D will prevent Covid – wrong! Although vitamin D is important for our health, we can get this with relatively low amounts of sunlight exposure during the summer or through oral supplementation with 1000 – 2000 international units a day.  You might ask what’s the big deal about the sun and why are dermatologists so fanatical about telling people to cover up? Is this some sort of conspiracy?  Well, the answer to the last question is YES.

At Pacific Derm, our Board Certified dermatologists are committed to protecting and healing you and your skin from all sorts of skin conditions.  One area of importance relates to skin cancer.  Not only does the sun contribute to skin aging (brown spots, wrinkles, sagging skin) in all skin types, the sun also is the main cause of skin cancer, affecting 1 in 7 Canadians during their lifetime.   Although most skin cancers do not spread through the body, they can cause local skin damage that can result in significant and unattractive scarring – especially on the face.  More important, this year it is estimated that a more serious type of skin cancer – melanoma – will affect 8000 Canadians and another 1300 will die from this cancer.  This means that 3 people a day will die from a mainly preventable disease.  The good news, and we all need a positive outlook these days, is that most skin cancers when detected early can be easily treated and curable too!

What to look for you ask?  Look for a spot that appears different from all your other spots – the ugly duckling.  This pertains mainly to melanoma, a spot with colour (usually) that is Asymmetric, has an irregular Border, more than one Colour (browns, black, and others), a Diameter more than 6mm, and is Evolving or changing out of step to your other skin spots. These are the ABCDEs of melanoma. For non-melanoma skin cancer, which occur most often on the sun-exposed face and neck, look for a skin coloured or reddish bump that is new and that may bleed, heal, and then bleed again. These may be scaly or not.

Like they say, prevention is the best medicine.  Limit your sun exposure during the most intense time of the day during the summer (11 AM – 3 PM), wear clothing, hats and sunglasses to protect your skin and your eyes (it’s environmentally friendly), seek shade when you can, and apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.  Oh yes, forget tanning beds – they don’t prevent anything as it relates to skin cancer and premature aging of your skin.

It’s never too late to adopt UV protection into your daily routine or treat existing sun damage to your skin. The skin is a remarkable organ that can heal itself with a little help from skin products, lasers and your dermatologist.   Are your ears burning now?