May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and it’s a great time to refresh our knowledge of skin cancer and make sure we have everything we need for summer sun protection.
Did You Know?
The most common form of human cancers is skin cancer and there are more new skin cancer cases annually than the combined incidences of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon. A study in the Archives of Dermatology has shown that more than two million people in the US develop over 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers every year. This constitutes a more than 300 percent increase in skin cancer incidence since 1994, these figures confirm that skin cancer, is an epidemic.
Do you know that skin cancer can kill you?
Many people believe that skin cancer is relatively not dangerous – visit your doctor, have it removed, and life goes on. However, although skin cancer, particularly non-melanoma skin cancer, is usually very treatable when caught early, it should be taken seriously. Skin cancers have a high rate of recurrence, and anyone who has had one runs an increased risk of developing another type of skin cancer, including melanoma.
Additionally, people who have had non-melanoma skin cancer have double the risk of developing other malignant cancers, such as lung, colon, and breast cancers. Melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is particularly serious because it can metastasize (spread) to distant tissues or organs, and can be life-threatening, if not detected and treated quickly.
The biggest danger is letting skin cancer go untreated. The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal. If you are not sure about a mole or freckle that has changed in some way – you should always have it examined by a doctor.
Are you familiar with various forms of skin cancer?
There are three different types of skin cancers. From the least to the most dangerous, they are: Basal cell carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The first two, Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma are the most common forms of skin. Both of these are also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancer. Melanoma is generally the most serious form of skin cancer because it tends to metastasize (spread) throughout the body quickly.
Which is the most common form of skin cancer?
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and accounts for more than 90% of all skin cancer in the U.S. These cancers almost never spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. They can, however, cause damage by growing and invading surrounding tissue.
What are risk factors for developing basal cell carcinoma?
Light-colored skin, sun exposure, and age are all important factors in the development of basal cell carcinomas. People who have fair skin and are older have higher rates of basal cell carcinoma. About 20% of these skin cancers, however, occur in areas that are not sun-exposed, such as the chest, back, arms, legs, and scalp. The face, however, remains the most common location for basal cell lesions. Weakening of the immune system, whether by disease or medication, can also promote the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
Why is not all sun equal?
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. The risk of developing skin cancer is also affected by where a person lives. People who live in areas that receive high levels of UV radiation from the sun are more likely to develop skin cancer. In the United States, for example, skin cancer is more common in Texas and in Colorado (high altitude) than it is in Minnesota, where the sun is not as strong. Worldwide, the highest rates of skin cancer are found in South Africa and Australia, which are areas that receive high amounts of UV radiation.
Basic Sun Safety Tips:
- 1. Minimize time spent outdoors during peak hours. Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
2. If you must be outdoors, stay in the shade whenever possible
3. Wear sun protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. Unfortunately, not all clothing protects against the sun. White cotton only has about UPF 5 or 7 (UPF is like SPF, but for clothes); colored cotton has UPF 10. Look for sweat-wicking clothes with at least UPF 30
4. Apply Sunscreen liberally and evenly over all exposed areas. Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater at least 30 minutes BEFORE going outside to give it time to be absorbed into the skin. Be sure to reapply every two hours or after exercise or water activity.
5. Keep children out of harm’s way. Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18. As a parent, be a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child.