April 4, 2017

by Mankato Clinic

By now, you’re probably spending more time outdoors than you have in the past few months. It’s important to remember that with the seasons changing from winter to spring, also comes an increased amount of sun exposure than what you have probably experienced during the winter months.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can wreak havoc on unprotected skin, which can lead to harmful effects of sun exposure.  Preventing sun damage and taking care of your skin is more beneficial than you may think: it also helps reduce your risk of melanoma.

Melanoma is widely known as the most serious type of skin cancer and develops in your body’s cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color. Not just found in skin, melanoma can also form in your eyes and rarely in internal organs like the intestines.

It’s unclear what the exact cause of melanoma is, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight, tanning lamps and tanning beds largely increase your risk of developing skin cancer. To help reduce your risk of melanoma, limit your exposure to UV radiation as much as possible.

Often times, melanoma can be treated successfully if it’s detected early, which is why it’s so important to understand the symptoms of the disease. Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, but most often develop in areas that have more exposure to the sun like your back, arms, face and legs. They can also occur in areas that don’t receive much sun exposure like the soles of your feet, palms of your hands and fingernail beds. These harder to spot melanomas are more common in people with darker skin.

If you have a mole that looks different than your other moles, or an existing mole is changing in appearance, becomes painful, bleeds or is itchy, it’s important to have it evaluated by your physician or dermatologist as soon as possible. It’s important to note that melanoma doesn’t always begin as a mole, but it can also occur on otherwise normal skin.

The best thing you can do for your skin is to give it the necessary protection it needs from the sun’s harmful UV rays. To help reduce your risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer be sure to avoid the sun during the middle of the day, wear sunscreen year-round, wear UV protective clothing, avoid tanning lamps and beds and become familiar with your skin so that you notice changes.