Skin Cancer Can Be Deadly: Get in on Free Screenings to Lower Your Risk

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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month -- and a great time to take advantage of clinics around the country that will check you out at no cost. Here's what you need to know.

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The first Monday in May – this year that’s May 2 – has been designated “Melanoma Monday.” It’s an effort to raise awareness about the deadly skin cancer and encourage people to check their skin on a regular basis.

Although most skin cancers are not fatal, the same can’t be said for melanoma. Melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, but it accounts for nearly 75 percent of all skin cancer fatalities, according to WhatHealth.com.

One in every 50 Americans will develop malignant melanoma. Melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer in young adults ages 25 to 29.

With Melanoma Monday, and the month dedicated to skin cancer awareness, it’s a good time to get in on a free screening, which take place at a smattering of medical facilities across the country.

The University of Kansas Medical Center is among the locations conducting free screenings on Monday afternoon. The annual event has been popular, Dr. Daniel Aires, the center’s director of dermatology told KMBZ. “We have a lot of folks coming in every year who just want to get checked over and see if they have anything that’s concerning. And every year we do find several melanomas.”

It’s a good idea to get your skin checked out on a regular basis, dermatologists stress.

“The most important warning sign for skin cancer is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape or color,” said Dr. David Deisher in a statement. Deisher will be one of two specialists conducting free screening at Heartland Plastic and Hand Surgery in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on May 13.

Even if you can’t get screened on Monday or in May, get it on your to-do list, and follow up with your doctor, or use this great resource: The American Academy of Dermatology has a listing of locations across the country that regularly provide free screenings — some on a walk-in basis and some by appointment.

If you’re not near a permanent location, you can also sign up for alerts to find out when free screenings are being conducted within a 50-mile radius of your home.

“If it’s caught early, [melanoma is] quite preventable and treatable. If it’s caught late then it’s much harder and it can be deadly,” Dr. Aires said.

Could you be at risk? According to Dr. Aires, if you have a history of blistering sunburns, a family history of skin cancer or skin spots or moles that look a little concerning, you need to get checked out.

To reduce the risk of skin cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:

  • Stay cool in the shade: Experts recommend that you stay out of the sun, especially during midday hours.
  • Cover up: Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Don’t forget your eyes: Experts say sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer you the most protection.
  • Just say no to tanning beds: Avoid all indoor tanning. Opt for self-tanner instead.
  • Protect your skin: Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and make sure it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with melanoma? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

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