Skin Care, Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection Tips from Hudson Valley Dermatologist Dr. Wendy R. Parish of Kingston, NY

Skin test: A local dermatologist offers advice on preventing and detecting skin cancer



Summer’s sunshine may be great for bicycling, gardening, swimming, golfing, barbecuing, and more; but, as we all know, the ultraviolet rays are not so great for your skin. In fact, recently released statistics indicate that  protecting your skin is more imperative than ever. An estimated 76,250 cases of melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — will occur in the U.S. this year, an increase of 6,000-plus cases over last year, according to the American Cancer Society’s recently released Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 (click here to review the facts and figures, courtesy of the American Cancer Society). Even worse is the number of melanoma-related deaths, which are expected to rise to slightly more than 9,000 cases this year (up from 8,790 last year). Here’s a sobering statistic: One person dies every hour from a melanoma.

Kingston dermatologist Dr. Wendy R. Parish attributes the increase in all skin cancers to a variety of factors: More people are having their dermatologists check suspicious and changing moles; more ultraviolet rays are coming through because of a reduction in the ozone layer; and more time spent outdoors — and not just at the pool or beach. The good news: Skin cancer is preventable and highly treatable if detected early. Here’s more key information from Dr. Parish:

What does a melanoma look like?
A new or changing mole. We describe the A, B, C, or Ds of melanoma. A is for asymmetrical; B is for irregular or notched borders; C is the color, which can vary from different shades of tan, brown, or black as well as dashes of red or white; and D is the diameter, which may be six millimeters, but we’ve diagnosed them much smaller, too.

Where is it most likely to occur on the body? 
Generally, it is found on exposed parts — skin, face, neck, and extremities, but sometimes even on the upper back and the bottoms of the feet.

What are the early warning signs?
A changing or new mole.

Who is most susceptible to melanomas?
In general, fair-skinned individuals with red or blond hair, blue or green eyes. Caucasian men over 50 years are more likely than women. And in general, as people age they’re at an increased risk of skin cancer because of accumulated sun damage. One in 59 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime. If you have more than 50 moles, or large or atypical ones, you’re also more susceptible; you also are if you’ve had other cancers such as breast or thyroid.

What’s considered good skin protection?
We recommend a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen, but be sure to use enough. Fill a shot glass and use it on all exposed body parts from the face to neck, forearms, hands, and legs. Most people only apply 25 to 50 percent of what they need. Also, protect your lips.

Is it true that you can get sun damage in the shade and on cloudy days?
On cloudy days, 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds. Also, sand reflects 25 percent of the sun’s rays.

Why are tanning booths and beds so bad?
They damage the DNA in the skin. There’s a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma from those exposed to ultraviolet radiation during tanning.

What else should we know about melanomas and other forms of skin cancer?
The majority are preventable with sun protection. If detected early and treated before they spread to lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.

» Worried about your skin’s health? Click here to learn how to perform a self-examination — and review the gallery below to identify and compare suspicious moles — courtesy of the Skin Cancer Foundation.
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