Lots of things can happen when you go out into our strong Arizona sunshine without protecting your skin and nearly all of them are bad.  The worst, of course, is that you may develop melanoma.  Arizona is practically the melanoma capital of the United States and it is no wonder.  We have over 300 days of sunshine each year and we are at the bottom of the United States where the rays of the sun are much more direct than in the northern states.

For those of us who got sunburns while growing up, we can’t reverse that exposure.  What we can do, however, is keep an eye on our skin for signs of any form of skin cancer.  Skin cancer is the most common cancer.  It takes many forms. All skin cancers, including melanoma, are usually curable, if detected early enough.  One of the problem aspects of melanoma is that it has a smaller window than other skin cancers before it begins to spread to other parts of the body.  Once it has spread, it may lie unnoticed for years before making its presence known.  Once it has spread, the chances for successful treatment go way down.  The emphasis must therefore be on early detection and treatment.

There are some excellent resources on line which discuss detection and treatment of melanoma.  Try the National Cancer Institute at the National Insitutes of Health.  In addition to melanoma, the Institute discusses many other forms of skin cancer and what to look for.  The most important thing is to be suspicious about your skin and anything which looks out of the ordinary.  See a dermatologist regularly for skin examinations.  Err on the side of biopsies of suspicious lesions.  Misdiagnosis can and does occur, even among dermatologists.  If you remain suspicious in spite of reassurances from the doctor, get a second opinion.

Here are some other resources:

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