Preventing skin cancer

HealthBeat

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — With many people enjoying the summer heat doing outdoor activities, it’s more important then ever to be protecting your skin.

Lois Quam has spent a lot of time outdoors her entire life. After her first skin cancer diagnosis in 1989, she regularly did home skin checks as well as regularly seeing her dermatologist.

“And then my second melanoma was 2018. I had one on my arm and again, it was just something different than the other ones,” Quam said.

Fortunately, both of Quam’s melanomas were caught early– and today she is only left with the removal scars.

Dr. Sarah Sarbacker says with skin cancer, timing is key.

“The sooner, the better, the smaller they are. And in general, once they start, they tend to slowly grow. Basal cells grow slowly over years, squamous cells grow quickly over weeks to months. Melanoma is slower too, it’s not a particularly fast one, but we still believe that the sooner you take it off the earlier it is,” Sarbacker said.

While Dakota Dermatology has remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, some patients did have to postpone their appointments for a few months.

Quam was one of those patients, who did self-checks during that time.

“With the three skin cancers, basal cells bleed and they just don’t heal. So you think, what is that little pimple that won’t go away? It’s been there for six months. Squamous cells are like a volcano and they really come out of nowhere. People think they’re an ingrown hair, but every week they’re bigger and bigger and bigger,” Sarbacker said.

With melanoma, she says watch for the ABCDE’s: asymmetry, border irregularity, color that isn’t uniform, diameter greater than 6 millimeters, and evolving size, shape or color.

Quam detected both of her skin cancers through self-checks using these guidelines.

“She knew that was new. That was different. It didn’t really look like melanoma, but it was just something odd,”

When it comes to protecting your skin there’s multiple ways to do it. Sarbacker recommends using clothing, shade and sunscreen.

And just as important as protection is coming in for regular skin checks by a dermatologist.

“Catching it early and then regular skin checkups. You know, I faithfully come back to her and get checked,” Quam said.

For more information on preventing skin cancer, click here.

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