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Health: Looking for Skin Cancer

I’m Faith Lapidus with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. The risk increases in summer because ultraviolet rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer. Tanning beds can also be high in UV radiation.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but people with light colored skin, hair or eyes are at greatest risk. A history of sunburns early in life also increases the risk. So does a family history of skin cancer.

The sooner skin cancer is found, the easier it is to treat. So doctors advise people to examine all areas of their skin once a month, from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet. Even look under the nails and between the toes.

Professional examinations are also important. See a doctor if a mole bleeds or itches or is bigger than six millimeters.

Knowing what your skin looks like will help you recognize any changes in the size, shape or color of growths. The Cleveland Clinic suggests taking pictures of moles and dating the images to compare over time.

The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell cancers. They can develop as flat, discolored areas or as raised growths, often with a rough surface.

Melanoma is far more dangerous. Melanomas can appear even in areas of the body that do not get a lot of sun. They can be flat or raised and have areas of black, brown and other colors. Other signs include uneven borders or one half different from the other.

Without early treatment, deadly melanomas can quickly spread within the body.

Hats, sunglasses and clothing offer protection from harmful sunrays, but that can depend. Experts say the denser the weave of the material, the less ultraviolet radiation reaches the skin. Also, darker colors may offer more protection, and natural cotton can block more than bleached cotton. When clothing is wet or stretched, however, it lets more UV radiation pass through.

Choose sunscreen products and sunglasses designed to protect against both UV-A and UV-B rays. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remind people to put on sunscreen before they go outdoors.

UV levels can be high even on cloudy days.

Put a thick amount on all areas of skin that will get sun. Put on more sunscreen if you stay in the sun for more than two hours, and after you swim or sweat a lot from activities.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Brianna Blake. To learn more about skin cancer, go to I’m Faith Lapidus.