It’s not surprising that as we close out May and head into June it signifies both the official kickoff to summer and Skin Cancer Awareness month. It’s a great reminder to protect your skin while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Whether it’s a day at the pool, a barbecue with friends or simply driving in the car, protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun is important not only during the summer, but all year long. Long, light-filled days at the beach often also mean overexposure to the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can wreak havoc on your skin, eyes, and immune system. Avoiding too much sun, covering up, and using sunscreen is the key to preventing skin cancer. Early detection is important too. When skin cancer is caught early, it is usually treatable
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. UV radiation can also come from tanning booths or sunlamps. The most dangerous kind of skin cancer is called melanoma. In 2015, about 73,870 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 42,670 in men and 31,200 in women). The risk of melanoma increases with age – the average age at the time it is found is 62. But melanoma is not uncommon even among those younger than 30. In fact, it is one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young women), Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 2.8 million are diagnosed annually in the US. BCCs are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. Who survives skin cancer? The 5-year survival rate for patients, whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin, is about 97 percent. The 5-year survival rate falls to 15-20 percent for those with advanced disease.
Your skin type is one of the main factors in your risk for skin cancer. There are six skin phototypes, going from light to dark. Those individuals with skin types I and II face the highest risk of developing skin cancer, while types V and VI are at the lowest risk. That is because those with more pigmentation (types V and VI) have more natural protection from the sun. However, people with darker skin can nonetheless get skin cancer. Like light-skinned people, they should be cautious of the sun and have regular examinations by a doctor. A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. For example, unprotected exposure to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer, and smoking is a risk factor for cancers of the lung, mouth, throat, kidneys, bladder, and several other organs. Even if a person with basal or squamous cell skin cancer has a risk factor, it is often very hard to know how much that risk factor may have contributed to the cancer.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher as one important part of a complete sun protection regimen. Sunscreen alone is not enough, however, Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Do not burn, and avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.