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Record sunshine in Texas prompts concern over melanoma skin cancer

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The sun in Texas is brutal. Aside from the fact that Texas is currently experiencing the worst drought in its history, the sunshine affects not only the threat of dry times and wild fires, but is the number one cause of skin cancer.

Melanoma rates in the Sun Belt increase with sun exposure and beach goers are the group with the highest incidence rates. Stay out in the direct sunlight and get a double dose of ultra-violet rays reflected off the water as well. It is better to visit the beaches during the sunrise or sunset. The hours between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. deliver the highest doses of harmful sunshine.

There are several types of skin cancer, but Melanoma is the most dangerous form of the disease. Melanoma is a cancer of the skin melanin cells called melanocytes. These cells produce melanin, which determine skin and hair color. Melanin also affects the colored part of the eye.

People of all ages are susceptible to melanoma. Age is a factor and the skin disease is detected with more frequency in older adults. Having fair skin, red or blonde hair and light colored eyes is also a hazard for sun worshippers. There are exceptions and melanoma does occur in darker skinned individuals. Fair-skinned people should actively avoid the sun or tanning beds.

According to U.S. National Library of Medicine - the World’s Largest Medical Library, symptoms of melanoma include:

Asymmetry: One-half of the abnormal area is different from the other half.

Borders: The lesion or growth has irregular edges.

Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black (sometimes white, red, or blue). A mixture of colors may appear within one sore.

Diameter: The trouble spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter -- about the size of a pencil eraser.

A dermatologist qualified or experienced in skin diseases should check out suspected melanoma indicators. Melanomas caught very early on are the curable ones. Melanoma that spreads to the lymph nodes or other organs is harder to treat and possibly fatal. Recurrences of melanoma are possible.

Prevention of melanoma includes avoiding the sun and other UV rays. Using a sunscreen of SPF protection level 30 or higher is highly recommended. No tanning bed or tanning level is safe for people at risk for melanoma. Protective clothing is better than sunscreen. Enjoy the Sunbelt, but learn to appreciate the beauty of the early morning or late evening instead of midday.

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