Suraj S. Venna, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and director of the Inova Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center. He has a particular interest in the prevention, detection and treatment of melanoma. Read Dr. Venna’s profile.
As a melanoma specialist, I see patients with skin cancer in the clinic every day. Unfortunately, many of those cases could have been prevented. That’s why it’s so important to me to raise awareness of skin cancer prevention.
On June 14, I joined dermatologists from across the country at the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s 2016 Skin Cancer Health Fair & Screening on Capitol Hill. The annual event, held in cooperation with the Congressional Skin Cancer Caucus, was designed to educate legislators, congressional staff and the general public about the risks of skin cancer.
Protecting People From A Deadly Disease
This year’s event was a big success. Members of Congress, Capitol Hill staffers and many members of the general public came out to hear the personal account of a melanoma diagnosis by former Philadelphia Phillies player Mike Schmidt, melanoma survivor and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
A dozen members of Congress from both sides of the aisle participated:
- John Barrasso, MD (R-WY)
- Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
- Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
- Ryan Costello (R-PA)
- Charlie Dent (R-PA)
- Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
- Dave Joyce (R-OH)
- Bill Keating (D-MA)
- Dave Loebsack, (D-IA)
- Billy Long (R-MO)
- Patrick Meehan (R-PA)
- Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)
During the event, my colleagues and I performed a steady stream of free skin-cancer screenings and also taught participants how to do their own self-checks to spot possible signs of skin cancer.
But spotting suspicious moles was really just one small piece of the event. A bigger goal was to raise awareness among legislators about skin cancer. After all, they are in a unique position to be able to reduce skin cancer rates through legislation.
Some states, for instance, have considered laws to ban minors from using tanning beds. Research has demonstrated that tanning bed use is a strong risk factor for developing skin cancer, so such laws could have a real impact on public health.
By educating members of Congress and boosting the public’s knowledge about the seriousness of skin cancer, I hope we can take concrete steps to protect people from this potentially deadly disease.
6 Tips To Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer
Luckily, you don’t have to wait for the government to take action to protect yourself from skin cancer. These tips will help you reduce your risk and spot warning signs early:
- Apply sunscreen generously every day to all exposed skin. Use an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) between 50 and 70, and reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
- Use sun-protective clothing to protect your skin from sun damage.
- Protect your face and eyes from sun damage by wearing hats and sunglasses year-round.
- If you spend a lot of time in the car, consider tinting windows to block the rays from reaching your skin.
- Avoid tanning — both outside and in tanning beds — and seek out shade when possible if you’re spending time outdoors.
- Perform self-checks to spot suspicious moles and skin changes early. Ask a spouse our partner to help you check your back, and look for the “ABCDE” signs of potential melanoma:
- Asymmetry (one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half)
- Border (borders of the mole are irregular, ragged or notched)
- Color (mole is not the same color throughout)
- Diameter (mole is greater than 6 millimeters – roughly the size of a pencil eraser)
- Evolving (mole has changed size, shape or color)
If you are concerned about a suspicious mole or skin change, or have been diagnosed with skin cancer, read more about the Inova Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center or call 703-970-6430 to make an appointment.