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In Spain, more than 4,000 cases of melanoma are detected each year, the most dangerous skin cancer and the one that generates the most mortality, about a thousand a year in our country, which represents 80% of deaths from skin cancer. The good news is that, as with the rest of skin cancer, it is 80% preventable with healthy photoprotection habits from childhood.
May 23, World Melanoma Day, is a good time to remember how to prevent and recognize it in its early stages to detect it early.
Sun exposure after confinement
After weeks of confinement, going outside for a walk or doing outdoor sports have become one of the most precious activities. However, this ‘de-escalation’, if not done progressively, can put the health of the skin at risk, as we not only expose it to the sun after weeks without doing so, but we do it at a time of year in the that radiation is especially dangerous. “A large part of the population has not received direct solar radiation for many days, so now more than ever, if you want to avoid a burn you have to be exposed to the sun sensibly, avoiding the burn, which causes skin damage”Explains Dr. Ángeles Flórez Menéndez, a dermatologist and one of those responsible for Euromelanoma, a campaign that the Piel Sana Foundation joins every year to raise awareness of the risks of excessive exposure. “As in the coronavirus, here we are also responsible for reducing the curve of skin cancer,” he says.
Preventive measures, although they must be carried out throughout the year, especially in areas of high altitude and snow, take on special importance in summer, when UV sun rays come with more intensity.
• Avoid exposing yourself to the sun between 12 and 16 pm, when the sun is more intense.
• Do not expose yourself suddenly, but progressively -First 5 minutes and go up gradually until 15-20 minutes-, and never do it for a long time, not even for sports, for which you will also have to leave protected.
• Protect the skin and head with light clothing, hats, sunglasses, shading and always using SPF cream depending on the phototype (lighter or darker skin type). Forgetting to protect your head and arms is a very common mistake that causes between 70% and 90% of basal cell carcinomas to develop in the areas of the head and neck exposed to the sun. Melanoma, specifically, can appear on the arms about 20% of the time, on the trunk and legs in also high percentages.
• The SPF of the cream we use should never be less than 15 and we have to apply it 20 minutes before exposure and reapply it every 2 hours and every time we bathe or sweat excessively.
• We must remember that neither cloudy days nor water protect from UV rays, Furthermore, they can even intensify its negative effect by creating a false sense of security that leads us not to take the necessary measures.
• You have to protect yourself from childhood, Well, as dermatologists claim, the skin has memory and the harmful effect of UV rays on the skin is cumulative. From six months of life -before it is contraindicated- you must apply protection according to age and skin type and before that you must avoid exposure
• Avoid the use of tanning booths, They increase the probability of developing melanoma by 75% when used before the age of 30.
• People who are taking some kind should not be exposed to the sun photosensitive medications.
• People with risk factors, As a family history, having more than 50 moles, etc., they must take extreme precautions.
Campaigns to raise awareness of prevention are still very important, since Although 92% of people acknowledge that sun exposure can cause health problems, only 18% of them correctly protect their skin.
Self-examination and the ABCDE rule
In addition to prevention, early detection is vital in the prognosis of melanoma, “which changes a lot if detected early. That is why we insist on the importance of self-exploring the skin every month and visiting your trusted dermatologist ”, explains Dr. Serrano Falcón, from the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV).
When carrying out this examination and carefully observing each mole or skin spot, we must take into account what is known with the ABCDE rule: Asymmetry in one place, presenting irregular edges, inhomogeneous color, diameter greater than 6mm, and noticing an evolution, that is, it changes in size or appearance. In the event of any injury with one of these alterations, a dermatologist should be consulted. It is a simple gesture that, according to dermatologists from the Piel Sana Foundation, “only takes a few minutes a month and can save your life.”