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Spring Is Here, and So is Skin Cancer Awareness Month


May is skin cancer awareness month, and a good reminder to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.

May is skin cancer awareness month — a good reminder to schedule my annual appointment with my dermatologist. I had little awareness that as a breast cancer survivor I could be at increased risk of skin cancer, but fortunately my dermatologist was on top of things following my diagnosis and recovery. When reviewing some of the available research, I found that it is suggested that the BRCA2 gene, which is commonly associated with breast cancer, may play a role in some individuals being twice as likely to develop melanomas. I suspect this applies not only to women, but also men. So, what are precautions survivors, previvors and others who are at risk can take?

I certainly don't avoid the sun, and I love the outdoors and adventure. I have always been good about using sunscreen, but now I’ll also wear a hat if I’m going to be in the sun for a prolonged period of time. I have also researched lotions and have been purchasing brands which contain fewer harmful chemicals, while still offering good UV protection.

My dermatologist has suggested I be seen annually for screening, and this appears to be the norm. But she also suggested, however, if any biopsy or screening comes back with a suspicious result, then it would be recommended I come in more frequently for a full-body screening.

Besides having fun wearing different kinds of hats, I also have a little more awareness about light-colored clothing I can wear, which might even have built in UV Protection. This was one of my personal priorities when shopping for clothing for a Costa Rica retreat where I had been invited to help teach yoga. The days were long, and many hours were spent in the sun. These considerations, along with wearing sunscreen and sunglasses with polarized frames, help to reduce risk. A tip I have heard is also to remember to use sunscreen on the tops of ears, noses and toes. These are all areas which are sometimes at increased risk as individuals forget to apply sunscreen there.

Much like breast cancer self-exam, it can also be helpful to conduct a skin one, too. Here, you can look for any changes in the size, color or shape of any moles or other areas of the body and skin. A monthly check is good, and could be easily done when showering or bathing.

Spring is here, and it is a great time to get back to enjoying the outdoors safely, but hopefully with a few easy precautions to enjoy life. Paddle boarding anyone?

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