The month of May is nationally recognized as Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Awareness month. Throughout the month, the American Academy of Dermatology and several organizations, like the American Cancer Society and Skin Cancer Foundation, work diligently to educate the nation on the risks, the warning signs, and how to reduce your risk of contracting skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States (US). Skin cancer is the unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells that cause uncontrolled abnormal growth of the cells. The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunlamps. There are three main forms of skin cancer. Basal and Squamous cell skin cancers are the most common forms. Melanoma is the least common, of the three, but most deadly form. Other forms of skin cancer include Merkel cell, Kaposi Sarcoma, and lymphoma of the skin.

Protecting yourself from UV rays daily can highly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. UV rays reach the ground daily. Limit or avoid direct exposure to the UV rays; especially when they are the strongest. You can determine the strength of the UV rays through the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are the strongest. One way to accomplish this is to seek shade, inside a building or under a tree. If you will be in sun, wear protective clothing. The most protective clothing options are darker long-sleeved shirts, pants, long skirts, etc. Where your skin is exposed, apply sunscreen. When choosing sunscreen, be sure to read the labels for type of protection and how to properly apply the product. Factors to look for in protective sunscreens include: broad spectrum protection, sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher, and water/sweat resistant.

Early detection of skin cancer increases the likelihood of success of treatments to remove the cancer. Knowing the different signs and symptoms of skin cancer will aid in quick detection. Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC) are cancerous cells that usually develop on the areas regularly exposed to UV rays. Some of the warning signs and symptoms of these skin cancers include: flat, firm, pale or yellow areas that look like a scar; raised, itchy, reddish patches on the skin; small, pink/red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps that may have bruising around it; pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center; wart-like growths; and open sores that do not heal or are reoccurring. Melanoma skin cancer usually appear as new spot (i.e. mole, blemish, sore, or marking) on the skin or a spot that changes in size, color, or shape. Other warning signs of Melanoma include: a sore that does not heal; spread of pigment from the border of a spot; redness or swelling beyond the border of a spot; change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain; change in the surface of a spot like scaliness, bleeding, or appearance.

Examining your skin at least once a month can help with early detection. This can be accomplished at home or by a doctor. You can find helpful tips on how to self-examine your skin at American Cancer Society -Skin Exams.

Educating ourselves and our communities can help reduce the rate of skin cancer cases. To learn more about skin cancer overall, please visit the following websites: Types of Skin Cancer, Skin Cancer and Skin Cancer Foundation.

We are in the final month of the 86th Legislative Session. Sine Die, the final day, of this Session is May 27th. Until then, the Legislature will continue to hold hearings over bills in committees and decide matters in the House and Senate Chambers. To look up and/or track legislation that interests you, please visit Texas Legislature Online. You are able to look up legislation by word, phrase, or bill number in the top-middle section of this page. The left of the page has several links that will connect you to the the Texas House of Representatives homepage and to the Texas Senate homepage.

To receive alerts of bills that interest you, please visit Texas Legislature Online My TLO Login . You can create a free account by clicking on “New User” underneath the password box. Once you’ve created your login, you will see a line full of empty boxes. Under “bill”, you type in the bill number and leave the next box as “any category”. This will send you alerts each time the bill moves through the legislative process. You can also add notes. Finally, select “Add Bill”.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672