Close up of a woman in a straw hat applying sunscreen on her shoulder. She has red painted nails, is smiling and there is a river and coastline in the background.

If you live in Hampton Roads, it is important that you know about melanoma skin cancer. This cancer occurs here more frequently than in other parts of the country. Melanomas can be deadly, however, if caught early they can be completely cured. What causes this cancer? While we don’t know exactly, exposure to UV in those with fair skin is thought to be one of the culprits.

With rising numbers of skin cancer diagnoses, experts say it’s extremely important to wear sunscreen any time you go outside. “SPF should be at least 30 or higher for extended time outdoors,” says Thomas Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology. “Because people may under-apply sunscreen, I personally recommend that the higher the SPF, the better protection it offers.”

Genetic factors play a role too. This is not a cancer that just affects Caucasians; those with darker skin can also develop melanoma. 

Who’s at most risk?

  • People with fair skin, light hair (blond or red) and eye color (blue, green or hazel)
  • People with a history of sunburns especially those that caused blistering when they were children
  • People with a history of tanning bed use
  • People who have many moles (>50)
  • People with a prior history of melanoma and their blood relatives

The best defense against melanoma is to regularly examine your skin. Looking for moles that look different from the rest is a good first step.

Tips on what to look for:

  • Moles that are not round. Lesions where one side doesn’t match the other can be of concern.
  • Moles lacking a smooth border. A mole border should have a smooth edge like a pencil eraser, not a scalloped edge.
  • Moles should have a uniform color. See two, three or more colors in your mole?  Be sure to get that one checked.

Best prevention strategies for protecting the skin:

  • Sunscreen use, even on cloudy days
  • Wear a hat or long sleeves
  • Avoid the midday sun between 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Make checking your moles once a month your new healthy habit. Have a question about any of your moles? Dr. Chu and the board-certified experts at EVMS Dermatology would be happy to take a look and put your mind at ease. Schedule an appointment by calling 757.446.5629.