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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 January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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