Since May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, I thought I’d give you the SKINny: skin cancer is the most common cancer, accounting for nearly 50% of all cancers in the U.S. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,000 cases in 2014. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung, and colon and colon cancers.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime. Basal cell carcinoma, though rarely fatal, is the most common form of skin cancer and can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer.
Although melanoma accounts for only a small percentage of skin cancer, it’s far more aggressive than other skin cancers and causes most skin cancer deaths. One person dies of melanoma nearly every hour. Though it most often affects the skin, melanoma can also start in the eyes, mouth, genitals, and anal region.
What’s your risk?? Risk factors for non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers include:
- Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, including natural sunlight and artificial tanning booths.
- Pale skin
- Red or blonde hair
- Workplace exposure to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds, or radium
- You or other members of your family have had prior skin cancers
- Multiple or unusual moles
- Severe sunburns in the past (>5 regular sunburns or >1 blistering sunburn in childhood/adolescence)
So how can you stay safe?
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Teach children the shadow rule: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
- Seek shade, especially in the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest.
Follow the Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap! rules:
- Slip on a shirt: Cover up with protective clothing to guard as much skin as possible when you’re out in the sun. Choose comfortable clothes made of tightly woven fabrics that you can’t see through when held up to a light.
- Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen and lip balm with broad spectrum protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to unprotected skin at least 30 minutes before outdoor activities. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling off, or sweating.
- Slap on a hat: Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck. If you choose a baseball cap, remember to protect your ears and neck with sunscreen.
- Wrap on sunglasses: Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB absorption to protect your eyes and the surrounding skin.
Always remember, when in doubt, your physician is a great resource for skin health tips and tricks, as well as for taking a closer look at that funny mole you’ve been noticing lately.