Healthier Together: UV safety and avoiding skin cancer


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When the sun is out and the temperatures start to climb we make the most of it here in the Pacific Northwest. But it’s important to remember to protect your skin when you spend time outside regardless of whether the sun’s out

Local teacher Tabi Igbehen says she noticed her pre-existing mole had grown in size while living abroad in 2009, so she had it biopsied

"I had a small birthmark flat type of mole on my forehead, and it was real tiny about half a centimeter maybe less," said Igbehen.

"They checked it - did a little biopsy - they said it was fine," she said.

But it wasn’t until she moved back to the states and started teaching again that other people also started to notice a change.

In 2019, a mother of a student, who also happened to be a dermatologist, suggested she get it checked again.

"Through that year - the beginning of September 2019 to the beginning of 2020 - it really increased in size," she said. "It was actually about an inch and a half wide and it started getting discoloration and misshapen."

After multiple biopsies, doctors determined the mole had to be removed immediately.

"Because they didn’t know how deep it was and they didn’t know to what extent how far the parameters were," said Igbehen. "They took a donor site from my shoulder and then did a full skin graft on my forehead."

"Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your risk for skin cancer can increase in as little as 15 minutes of intense sunlight."

Dr. Drew Oliveira with Regence BlueShield says melanoma is the most worrisome form of skin cancer. Your risk for melanoma doubles if you’ve had as little as five sunburns in your life.

"Sunscreen should be used any time you’re going outside whether its cloudy or sunny but certainly more so in the sun," he said.

Igbehen says she diligently wore sunscreen since the age of 16… but she also has a family history of skin cancer.

"At school I have a big wide brimmed hat so I can cover my shoulder and my head," she said.

She encourages everyone to get screened for skin cancer and have any warning signs documented and tracked by a doctor, regardless of ethnicity, family history or where you live.

"You should always be checking yourself," she said.

When it comes to skin cancer – doctors say remember the ABCs:

  • A is for asymmetry – does is look the same all around?
  • B is for borders – are they irregular?
  • C is for color – is it uniform?
  • D is for diameter – is it bigger than a pencil erase?
  • E is for evolving – are there changes in the size, shape or color?

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