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Elaine Norman: May Is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

“Pay attention to your skin …”

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by ELAINE NORMAN || Are you doing enough to prevent skin cancer? May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and with summertime just around the corner, it’s time to remind yourself and your loved ones of the steps you should take to reduce your risk. Skin cancer is dangerous, but in most cases, you can prevent it.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in the United States.  An estimated 91,270 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – in 2018, and about 9,320 Americans will die from melanoma this year.  In South Carolina alone, about 1,820 people will be diagnosed with melanoma his year.

And while melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can lead to significant pain and disfigurement if they are not detected early on – and if left untreated, they can also be lethal.

Everyone is at risk for skin cancer regardless of age, skin color or gender.  You may be at increased risk of skin cancer if you have fair skin, freckles or skin that burns easily; smoke; spend time in the sun or use sun lamps or tanning booths; or have the human papillomavirus (HPV).

If you have darker skin, your risk is lower, but you still need to protect yourself.  African-Americans and Hispanics are usually diagnosed late, when the cancer is more likely to have spread.  Pay particular attention to areas of your body that have less pigmentation, like the soles of your feet, palms and the areas around your nails.

Most skin cancer develops from sunburns experienced as a kid, so sun protection should begin early.  Whether your family is headed to the pool or to the playground, make sure you’re all wearing broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, and be sure to reapply every two hours.  You should also avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and wear hats, sunglasses and long sleeves if possible.

And if you’re saying to yourself that you always wear sunscreen when you’re headed outside for long periods of time in the summer, that’s not enough. Skin damage can occur any time of year, even on cloudy days and during short periods of time outdoors. Your skin is even vulnerable when you’re in the car- the left side of the face is a common place for skin cancer to develop because of the time many Americans spend driving with their skin unprotected.

Indoor tanning is not a safe alternative – no tan is safe.

Even if you follow all these tips to reduce your risk, you need to pay attention to your skin.  Use the ABCDE Rule when looking at moles (Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color that is not uniform, Diameter greater than 6 mm, and Evolving size, shape or color), and visit a health care professional if you notice any of these characteristics or other changes to your skin.  For more ways to reduce your risk of cancer, visit www.preventcancer.org.

Elaine Norman is the wife of 43 years to Congressman Ralph Norman. She is a lifelong resident of South Carolina, growing up in Belton. Elaine attended Presbyterian in Clinton, SC. Together, Ralph and Elaine, have four children and sixteen grandchildren.

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