Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer? Over 5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year in the United States. While skin cancer is also one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, it can also be one of the most dangerous if gone undetected. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and in an effort to aid in the fight against skin cancer, we at Neighbors wanted to share with you some facts on skin cancer and tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones against it.
Know the facts about skin cancer.
Fact: About 90% of nonmelanoma and 85% of melanoma skin cancers are directly related to ultraviolet radiation or exposure to the sun. While the sun provides us with warmth and the oh-so-important vitamin D, it can also be dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken.
Fact: In the U.S., over 9500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
Fact: In the U.S., more than two people die of skin cancer every hour.
Fact: Worldwide, more than 5400 people die from nonmelanoma skin cancer every month.
Fact: Having more than five sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma.
Fact: The 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99% when it’s caught early.
Fact: Daily use of sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) can reduce your risk of skin cancer by around 40%
Fact: Only around 20 to 30 percent of melanomas are discovered in existing moles. 70 to 80 percent are found on apparently normal skin.
Fact: The sun isn’t the only ultraviolet exposure you need to worry about. Tanning indoors, like in tanning beds, can increase the risk of developing carcinoma by 83%.
Preventing skin cancer
So how can you prevent the world’s most common cancer? Luckily, there are many ways to protect yourself and those you love against skin cancer. One huge tip is to stay aware. The sun and its UV radiation are sneaky; it can find you, even when you think you’re protected from it. Rays from the sun can penetrate clouds and glass. In addition, they can bounce off things like glass, water, snow, and even sand. If you know you’re going to be in the sun for a prolonged period of time, think about wearing UV-resistant clothing, sunglasses, and hats in addition to sunscreen. Other tips to stay safe are:
- Keep this in mind during peak sun hours, like 10 AM to 4 PM. Bring umbrellas with you if you know you’ll be out and sit under awnings or trees when possible. Also, try walking on the shady side of the street.
- Sunscreen sounds like a simple one, but it can actually be a little more complicated than you might think. It’s essential to know your sunscreens and what they help protect against.
- Broad-spectrum sunscreen indicates the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Water-resistant sunscreen means you have some level of protection when in the water, usually between 40 and 80 minutes.
- If you have sensitive skin, consider using a product that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (referred to often as mineral or physical formulas.) These sunscreens might be less likely to irritate your skin.
- When getting ready for the day, apply sunscreen to your face. Many daily moisturizers have sunscreen in them already, but if yours doesn’t, regular sunscreen is sufficient.
- Be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen. SPF 15 should be enough for your daily life, but consider using SPF 30 or higher for outdoor activities.
- If you know you’ll be outside for extended periods of time, apply 1 ounce (about two tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body. If you’re engaging in strenuous activity that results in excessive sweating, or if you’re going to be swimming, you should reapply about every two hours.
- Don’t be afraid to slather it on. Most people don’t apply sunscreen correctly, often missing hard-to-reach areas or forgetting to reapply. When in doubt, more is the way to go.
- A summer glow is tempting, but it can put you at real risk. Try to avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
- Using sun protection is the best defense against skin cancer, but no method is foolproof, and 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Examine your skin every month, and don’t be afraid to call a doctor if something seems out of place. Some signs to be on the lookout for are:
- A change in an old mole or growth (like size or color)
- New growths on your skin
- Sores that won’t heal
- Dark bands across your nails
- Early detection is the best way to fight skin cancer. When diagnosed early, most patients receive minimal, cost-effective treatment and high survival rates. A yearly check-up with a dermatologist is a great way to stay on top of your skin health. A doctor will check you thoroughly from head to toe and pay extra attention to any hard-to-see areas, like your buttocks, back, scalp, between your toes, and behind your ears.
Let the sunshine in…a little bit.
With spring here and summer on the horizon, the urge to stay outside all day is strong, especially considering everything that has happened over the last year. The sun can be a glorious thing. Its warmth can brighten anyone’s day, and there’s nothing like being out in fresh air, but we have to be careful. Skin cancer is no joke. It’s estimated that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined, so we have to stay vigilant. Don’t forget to cover up, stay in the shade, put on your sunscreen, limit overall exposure, and stay attentive to any changes in your skin. While common, skin cancer is very preventable. Keep these tips in mind, and we can all enjoy the summer sun safely.