Check Yourself: Melanoma Awareness Month

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Soaking up the sun is a wonderful part of summer living, but it can have unintended consequences. One of these is an increased risk for skin cancer. May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and South Louisiana Medical Associates’ Board-Certified Dermatologist Dr. Alexis Duke wants to make patients aware of the sun’s harmful effects and provide ways to protect yourself this summer.

“Melanomas are a type of cancer that most commonly occur in the skin,” said Dr. Duke. “It develops in the cells that produce pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. Approximately 90 percent of cases are believed to be connected to UV exposure. This exposure can come from natural sources, like sunlight, or artificial ones, like tanning beds.”

Certain risk factors make people more susceptible to developing melanomas. These can include: many freckles or moles, pale skin, light-colored eyes or hair, extensive UV exposure, personal or family history of skin cancer.

The most important preventative measure is protecting your skin from excessive UV exposure. Although other risk factors also contribute to your chances for developing skin cancer, UV exposure is the only one you can control and is thought to be the crucial factor in most cases of skin cancer. Dr. Duke recommends taking these steps to help protect your skin:

• Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to exposed skin throughout the year.

• Wear clothing that covers your skin.

• Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

• Seek shade during periods when the sun is the most intense from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Be extra careful around water and sand which reflect the sun’s rays and increase your risk of sunburn.

• Avoid sunburns, particularly severe ones.

• Don’t use tanning beds or lie out in the sun to tan.

• Watch for medications that increase the skin’s sensitivity to sun.

You should perform self-examinations monthly and see your dermatologist once a year for a skin examination. If you notice anything unusual or concerning about a mole or other spot on your skin, it’s important to discuss anything you discover with your dermatologist or primary care physician.

South Louisiana Medical Associates is pleased to have physicians such as Dr. Duke who are committed to good patient care. If you are interested in scheduling a consultation with Dr. Duke, please call 985.868.1810.