May: a very busy month…

…but it’s the start of a very, very SUNNY month.

Now that final exams are over with, I’m glad to be back to Metblogging. I miss this place, but I’ve been out and about, reading and commenting, of course. I haven’t disappeared just yet, just took a temporary leave of absence.

However, there are so many things going on this month!

Proms, high school graduations, college acceptance letters for those high school seniors, and of course, the usual anticipation of summer.

I’m going to definitely highlight the summer part, mainly because it’s my favorite season for a break from school and work in general (plus there are vacations!) but it’s also my least favorite season because it’s so hot! And since June is coming up, our meteorologists predict that the hurricane season is going to start early this year. Oh, and some Houstonians are already storing away gas in 10-gallon tanks, water, and what do you know–guns. I’m not going to dwell on the guns part too much. It’s a scary thought. There are just too many things that can go wrong during a mass hysteria.

Anyway, July and August are roughly the driest months in Houston. And as Houstonians, not only do we prepare for a hurricane season, but we have to take care of the largest organ in our body: the SKIN!

May is the month dedicated to Skin Cancer Awareness. I got an email from the Health Coordinator at University of St. Thomas about skin cancer and how you should protect your skin this summer.

I can relate to this, because I didn’t really think skin cancer is that serious. I mean, most of my life, I didn’t really use any type of sunscreen/block lotion, because I didn’t spend that much time in the sun, except when I was a kid… But that’s another story for another day…

Now, I have to put on sunscreen before leaving the house. Otherwise, rashes, irritations and dry peeling skin will result if I don’t. Believe me, it’s not fun having dry peeling skin. It feels like someone is pulling your hair from your scalp almost.

Anyway, about SKIN CANCER:

Basics
The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell – usually referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers. Squamous cell may spread to other parts of the body more often than basal cell.

Most non-melanoma skin cancers develop on sun-exposed areas of the body, like the face, ears, neck, lips and the back of hands. When squamous or basal cell skin cancers are found early, there is nearly a 100% chance of cure.

Melanoma is the most serious of all skin cancer types because it is more likely than non-melanoma skin cancers to invade healthy tissue and spread to other parts of the body. Melanomas usually occur on or around existing moles. Although melanoma accounts for only 4% of skin cancers, it is far more serious and causes about 73% of skin cancer deaths.

Symptoms
Symptoms of skin cancer vary from person to person. Check with your doctor if you experience any of these:

* change on the skin, such as a new spot or one that changes in size, shape or color
* sore that doesn’t heal
* spot or sore that changes in sensation, itchiness, tenderness or pain
* small, smooth, shiny, pale or waxy lump
* firm red lump that may bleed or develop a crust
* flat, red spot that is rough, dry or scaly

Risk Factors
Many factors may influence the development of skin cancer, including:

* AGE: Forty to 50% of Americans who live to age 65 will develop skin cancer at least once.
* RACE: The risk of melanoma is about 10 times higher for whites than for African Americans.
* APPEARANCE: People who have red or blond hair, fair skin, freckles and blue or light-colored eyes are more at risk for developing skin cancer.
* EMPLOYMENT: Working around coal, tar, arsenic compounds, creosote, pitch or paraffin oil puts people at higher risk.
* GEOGRAPHY: People who live in southern states or in the “sun belt” are at a higher risk.
* SUNBURN: Excessive exposure to light from tanning lamps, booths or sunlight may increase a person’s risk. Severe, blistering sunburns, particularly during childhood or teenage years, increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer.

Screening and Early Detection
Look for changes as well as new growths on your existing moles, blemishes and birthmarks. Learn the ABC’s of skin cancer (which I thought is a really cool mnemonic device):

* Asymmetry of lesion: Are both sides of the lesion different?
* Border irregularity
* Color variation
* Diameter greater than six millimeters
* Elevation: Is the lesion growing in height?
* Feeling: Has the sensation around a mole or spot changed?

These recommendations are provided as a guide. If exam results suggest cancer, more extensive diagnostic tests should be conducted.

Ways to Reduce your Risk
You can take action to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer by:

* using an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen before going outside
* wearing a shirt or other cover up, a brimmed hat to protect the ears and neck, and sunglasses for the eyes
* staying indoors between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
* protecting your children, especially babies under six months of age who should be completely shielded from direct sun exposure
* stopping the use of tanning beds or other artificial sunlight sources

Facts about Sunscreen
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) indicates the amount of time you can spend in the sun without burning. A sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher is a good choice for most everyone. Apply it 30 minutes before going outside, spreading it evenly over all exposed parts of your body. Reapply every 60 to 90 minutes, including after coming out of the water or perspiring heavily.

If you have any questions, you can visit www.mdanderson.org or www.cdc.gov.

So have a safe “skin cancer-prevention” season! That way, our having fun in the sun won’t result to skin cancer in the future!

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