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As the residents of North Idaho welcome the warmer months and eagerly plan outdoor activities after a long winter, it’s crucial for you to remember that May marks Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The Northwest Specialty Hospital family of urgent care clinics and family physicians is sure to get visits for insect stings and injuries due to vigorous outdoor recreation this summer. But whatever your summer plans include, we caution our patients to avoid skin damage due to sun overexposure. 

Skin cancer is a very common form of cancer. Melanoma is the most aggressive form, capable of spreading rapidly if not detected early. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments is helpful, but sunseekers should safeguard their health by taking preventive measures.


About Skin Cancer

Skin cancer manifests in various forms, including squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. While melanoma is less common than its counterparts, it poses a higher risk of invading nearby tissues and metastasizing to other parts of the body, making it the leading cause of skin cancer-related deaths.

Extended direct exposure of your skin to sunlight, specifically the ultraviolet radiation present in sunlight, is the highest risk factor. Other factors include:


  • Having a fair complexion
  • A history of sunburns
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • The presence of many moles
  • Family history of melanoma


Skin cancer can manifest in different ways. People with moles that change in color, size, or shape, and any itching, tenderness, or bleeding of moles or other skin lesions are cause for scheduling a medical examination. As with most cancers, detecting early signs of cancer is critical for obtaining a more favorable prognosis. If you are in a high-risk category, examine your skin regularly for any tell-tale signs of skin damage that could indicate cancer.

Depending on the type and stage, there are several different treatment options for skin cancer. Surgical procedures such as excision, Mohs micrographic surgery, and cryosurgery are commonly used to remove cancerous tissue. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, and immunotherapy may also be recommended based on individual circumstances.


Preventive Measures You Can Take 

Prevention is always better than a cure when it comes to any disease, and skin cancer is no exception. Thankfully, people can take some simple steps to reduce the likelihood of contracting skin cancer. While it’s impossible to eliminate all risk factors (such as having fair skin), sun-safe practices can reduce your likelihood of developing the disease. Here are some of the steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from developing skin cancer:

  • Sun Protection: Seek shade, particularly during peak sun hours in the middle of the day. If no shade is available, wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt, and cover sensitive areas like your neck and shoulders.
  • Sunscreen: If you do spend time in the sun with your skin exposed, apply sunscreen with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF). Reapply it regularly, especially after sweating or spending time in the water.
  • Avoid Tanning Beds: Tanned skin may satisfy your vanity but won’t promote health. Avoid artificial UV radiation from tanning beds, as they increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • Regular Skin Checks: Perform monthly self-examinations and schedule regular skin checks with a healthcare professional, particularly if you have a family history of skin cancer or other risk factors. Pay special attention to any changes in your moles or new spots emerging on your skin.


You can best observe Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month by prioritizing your skin health and taking proactive steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. 


At NWSH, our dedicated team of healthcare providers is committed to providing patients comprehensive care through our many clinics in North Idaho. Schedule an appointment with one of our family doctors today for a thorough check-up and personalized guidance on skin cancer prevention. Through education and taking proactive steps to minimize your risk, raise awareness, and promote early detection, we can reduce the burden of skin cancer in our community.

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