May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

May 11, 2016

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and it is estimated that one person dies from melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—every hour. Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we want to provide you with some tips to help you be safe in the sun, and also detect any early signs of skin cancer. Early detection of skin cancer is essential, as most forms of skin cancer are curable if treated early.

Wear sunscreen. The general recommendation for sunscreen is to wear an SPF of at least 15 or greater, year-round. With so many brands to choose from, it can be confusing when you are at the store. Consumer Reports has tested sunscreens for effectiveness and quality, and have a complete buying guide you can check out online. Sunscreen labels can also be confusing. For example, do you want "sport" formulas, or ones specifically for faces? For more information on how to read a sunscreen label, check out this page that the Skin Cancer Foundation put together.

Wear sun protection. Clothing like long-sleeved shirts and/or hats can go a long way in skin cancer prevention, and often you can find clothing that is breathable and will protect you from the harmful UV rays from the sun.

See a Dermatologist annually. If you have never been to see a dermatologist, check out this article by HealthCentral on what you can expect at your first visit.

Do monthly self-checks. While yearly visits with a dermatologist are important, you know your skin best. Remember: Skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable. Be sure to check out the Skin Cancer Foundation's Step by Step Skin Cancer Self-Examination.

Another thing to consider when examining your skin is to inspect any moles you may have. Lots of people have moles on their body, and while most are harmless you should still watch for any changes as this could be a sign of melanoma skin cancer developing. Luckily, The American Cancer Society provides a handy little guide to help you look for signs of melanoma.

You can use the ABCDE rule to help monitor and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:

  • A - Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B - Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C - Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D - Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
  • E - Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

If you see something suspicious, make sure you follow up with your doctor.

Before you head outside this summer take an extra minute to practice the tips above. You'll be doing yourself and your skin a huge favor.

The Heptner Cancer Center provides comprehensive cancer care for most types of cancer, including skin cancer. Radiation Oncologist John Stamato, MD, FACRO, treats skin cancer using radiation therapy. Learn more at or by calling 307.688.1950.

Have Questions?
Campbell County Health's Wellness Services works to reduce health risks and promote overall wellness among employee groups and individuals across the northeastern Wyoming region. To learn more about Wellness, please visit or call 307.688.8051.

This blog was written by Rachel Wilde CPT, MA, CCH Wellness Services Technician and Phlebotomist