California

Here’s a Dermatologist’s Rules for Avoiding Skin Cancer

Living in California has its advantages. Chief among them is the weather. But all that fun in the sun has its risks if you don't take steps to protect yourself.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. As many as one in five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer at some point in their lives.

Dr. Tess Mauricio is a board-certified dermatologist with offices in Southern California. She offers tips for staying safe on a sunny California day.

Sunscreen

"We know if we protect our skin with proper use of sunscreen, we can protect ourselves," Mauricio says. But you shouldn't just grab a bottle off the shelf. Not all sunscreens are the same. "Number one, you want broad spectrum sunscreen, protection from ultraviolet rays A and B. Number two, SPF 30 or higher. Number three, you want it to be a waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen."

More is better

A lot of makeup and lotions have sunscreen built in, leaving some people to feel like they don't need to use actual sunscreen. But the protection in those products may not be up to snuff. "I believe in stacking it on," Mauricio says. "If you have it in your makeup, in your moisturizer and you also add your sunscreen, then that just protects you more."

Skin cancer doesn't discriminate

Having darker skin may make you less susceptible to sunburn, but people of color are also at risk when it comes to skin cancer. In fact, they may be less likely to get checked because they assume they're in the clear. "I have diagnosed skin cancers on patients with skin of color and sadly, because we don't think about it for our skin type, diagnosis can be delayed," Mauricio says.

Know your A-through-Es

It can be hard to know whether a spot on the skin is something to be worried about or just a harmless mole. Here's a simple way to remember the warning signs to look out for.

A is for asymmetry: The two sides of the mole should match.

B is for border: The border of the mole shouldn't be jagged.

C is for color: Coloration should be even, it really shouldn't have different colors.

D is for diameter: If it's bigger than a pencil eraser, it should be looked at

E is for evolution: If the mole is changing, gets itchy or starts bleeding, that's a reason for concern.

Do not wait

The last tip is easy. If you're concerned about a mole or spot on your skin, get to a dermatologist. "With melanoma, early diagnosis is key. If we catch it early, it is treatable," Mauricio says.

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