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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 20, 2018

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

    If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

    1. Breathe

    The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

    • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
    • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
    • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

    Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

    2. Loosen up

    After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

    Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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    3. Chew slowly

    Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

    Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

    Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

    4. Let go

    Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

    The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

    It’s not. Promise.

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    Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

    Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

    21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

    5. Enjoy the journey

    Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

    Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

    6. Look at the big picture

    The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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    Will this matter to me…

    • Next week?
    • Next month?
    • Next year?
    • In 10 years?

    Hint: No, it won’t.

    I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

    Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

    7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

    You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

    Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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    8. Practice patience every day

    Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

    • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
    • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
    • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

    Final thoughts

    Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

    Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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