Early detection is key in treating skin cancer, the most common cancer in the US

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about melanoma and skin cancer screenings. 

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with one person dying every hour because of melanoma.

Experts say about half of melanoma cases are self-detected, which is why self-checks are key to spotting changes that could be skin cancer and reporting them to your doctor.

A skin check with your doctor or dermatologist is quick, taking about 10 minutes. Letting them know about moles that are not symmetric, have border irregularities, vary in color, are larger than the size of a pencil eraser, or have changed in shape, size, or color over time, can make addressing and treating the issues much easier. 

“Skin cancer, if caught early, is extremely easy to treat,” says Doctor Aleksandra Brown, a dermatologist at River Ridge Dermatology. “It’s a simple incision in the office with regular follow-ups, it’s really easy to do. If you wait too long, skin cancer can penetrate deep. Basal or squamous cell skin cancers, they don’t look like much, they look like a pimple that won’t heal. If left alone they can penetrate deep, going to the muscle or even the bone and there much harder to treat.”

She says anything that’s changing, bleeding, burning, or itching, as well as new moles that appear after the age of 30 are all things that need to be flagged by your doctor. She says adults are also recommended to have their doctor or dermatologist do a skin check every year.

To protect your skin and reduce the risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends seeking shade during the times of day that the sun is at its strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wearing protective clothing and generously applying sunscreen every day can help as well. 

“I do recommend sunscreen on the face, neck, and chest every single day,” says Brown. “Everyone wants to know what number the sunscreen needs to be. Sunscreen number doesn’t matter, if you check the ingredients, flip to the back the bottle look for the ingredients, it should have zinc oxide in it.”

In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, River Ridge Dermatology will be holding a free skin cancer screening at the Christiansburg Recreation Center on Friday, from 1 to 4 p.m. It is free to attend. People will be checked on a first come first, served basis. 

For more information, click here.