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Spot The Difference Between An Ordinary And Cancerous Mole: 14 Ways To Help You Prevent Melanoma

Spot The Difference Between An Ordinary And Cancerous Mole: 14 Ways To Help You Prevent Melanoma

Skin cancer rates in the US have increased by around 600% since 1950. Melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer), accounts for around 3% of all skin cancer types, resulting in about 8000 deaths per year. This rise is largely attributed to environmental factors, and increased exposure to UV light. Consequently, skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer for young people.

Luckily, skin cancer is easy to prevent, and is highly treatable if caught early. This article helps to shed some light on how to prevent and detect skin cancer, debunking the various myths about it’s causes, and identifying the early symptoms.

The first step to identifying melanoma is to look at any existing moles you may have. Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black. Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups.

Most moles appear in early childhood and during the first 30 years of a person’s life. It is normal to have between 10-40 moles by adulthood. As the years pass, moles usually change slowly, becoming raised and/or changing color. Often, hairs develop on the mole. Some moles may not change at all, while others may slowly disappear over time.

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The graph below helps to identify whether a mole may be cancerous or not, pay attention to the symmetry, border, color, and size of each mole, and whether it has changed in appearance over time.

Identifying melanoma

    There are a number of ways to prevent skin cancer altogether, following these simple steps can massively reduce your chances of developing the disease.

    1) Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 50

    Sunscreen is essential in preventing skin cancer. Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen of at least SPF 50, anything below this can massively compromise your skin safety. The benefits of wearing sunscreen are many, not only will it reduce your chances of getting skin cancer, but it will also protect you against sunburn, and moisturize your skin. Many sunscreens contain Vitamin E, which not only helps to block out UV rays, but also provides anti-oxidant and anti-aging effects, improving the health of your skin drastically.

    2) Reapply sunscreen every two hours or so

    Be very liberal when applying sunscreen, ensure that it is regularly added, and applied to every part of the body, including the face, shoulders, arms, back, neck, legs and feet. Don’t be fooled into thinking that certain parts of your body won’t be affected by the sun.

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    3) Reapply sunscreen after going in the water

    Sunscreen loses it’s effectiveness over time and after going in the water. Anything that comes into contact with your skin can reduce the protective effect of sunscreen, so ensure you keep applying sunscreen throughout the day.

    4) Wear a hat with a wide brim

    Wearing a wide brimmed hat will provide you with additional protection from UV rays on your face and neck. This is especially important if you have little or no hair.

    5) Wear long-sleeved clothing

    Long-sleeved clothing massively helps to block out UV rays, and can be a great way to help minimize the risk of skin cancer and sunburn. Wearing light, long-sleeved clothing can help to keep you cool and protected, minimizing the chance of overheating, whilst maximizing protection from the sun.

    6) Wear sunglasses

    Highly tinted sunglasses help to protect your eyes and face from UV rays, and can also help you to see more clearly in the sun without squinting.

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    7) Check your whole body for moles

    Moles can appear anywhere on your body, including between your toes, or even on the soles of your feet. Ensure you check your whole body for raised parts, and use a hand mirror (or enlist a friend) to check parts of your body that are difficult to see. Consult the chart above to see if any such moles are potentially cancerous.

    8) Apply suncream regularly in places like New Zealand and Australia

    Skin cancer rates tend to be the highest in Ocianian countries like New Zealand and Australia. This is partly due to the hole in the ozone layer, meaning that more fewer UV rays are blocked out. If you are visiting or living in New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, or anywhere nearby, ensure you are very cautious to limit your sun exposure, and apply plenty of sunscreen.

    9) Remember that skin cancer is not always caused by the sun

    Skin cancer can develop with little or no exposure to UV rays. It is important to regularly check moles for abnormalities, even if you do not live in a sunny climate. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so do not assume that you are safe just because you haven’t been out in the sun.

    10) Avoid tanning beds

    There are many who erroneously believe that sunbeds do not cause skin cancer. The opposite is in fact true; using a sunbed just once a year can triple your chances of getting skin cancer. Consider spray tans as a healthier alternative.

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    11) Remember that keeping cool or hydrated will not keep you safe

    Often splashing in a pool or sitting with a fan will provide us with the comforting illusion that we are not burning. You are actually more likely to burn in water, because -not only does it strip the sunscreen off your skin- but the water reflects more light onto you. Keeping cool and drinking lots of water is definitely a good idea, but it will not protect you from UV rays.

    12) Remember that glass does not block out UV rays

    There are many rumors that stipulate that glass will protect you from UV rays. This is utterly untrue. Sitting behind a window or under a glass roof does nothing to prevent UV exposure unless it is heavily tinted, and even then the effect is minimal. This is important to remember if you are driving long distances in the sun, or sitting inside next to the window.

    13) Remember to apply sunscreen, even when you are skiing

    Snow is essentially tiny crystals of reflective ice, these can reflect light upwards and cause you to be exposed to UV rays. In some areas of high altitude, the atmosphere is thinner, meaning that fewer UV rays are blocked out. This means you are even more likely to burn or develop skin cancer than at sea level. Ensure you are covered up adequately, with a balaclava, snow goggles and protective clothing.

    14) Remember that sunscreen is not harmful

    Many people mistakenly believe that certain sunscreens (containg nanoparticles of zinc or titanium dioxide) can be harmful. Studies carried out by the TGA have shown that the human immune system actually breaks these particles down, and thus, they do not have any harmful effects. If you are still unsure however, simply check the ingredients on the bottle of sunscreen for zinc or titanium dioxide before purchasing.

    Featured photo credit: StokPic via stokpic.com

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    JC Axe

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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