As soon as the temperature starts to rise, it’s time to take advantage of outdoor activities and spending time with family in the sunshine. But with the extra fun comes increased risk of skin cancer. Sun protection is your best line of defense when it comes to skin cancer prevention. The American Cancer Society says staying in the shade can be one of the best lines of defense for your skin.
What is Skin Cancer?What exactly is skin cancer? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation and Skincancer.org, it is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells usually caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. The CDC suggests someone is at a higher risk of getting skin cancer even from a few bad sunburns. There are multiple types of skin cancer, but here are the three most commonly diagnosed in the United States, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America:
- Basal cell carcinoma: The cancer cells develop in the basal layer of the skin, hence the name. This type of skin cancer accounts for 80% of all diagnoses in America. This type of the least dangerous because it rarely metastasizes and grows slowly.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: This is the second most common type of skin cancer. They develop from the flat squamous cells on the skin. Although they are more likely to spread than basal cell carcinoma, it is uncommon for them to metastasize.
- Melanoma: This is a more aggressive and dangerous type of skin cancer that form in the melanocytes, or darker pigments of skin. Melanoma can form in parts of the body that aren’t exposed to sunlight, and can metastasize. Melanoma can require intense treatment like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. To learn more about the four basic types of melanoma, click here.
Skin Cancer in AmericaSkin cancer is also the most common type of cancer in the United States. The American Academy of Dermatology reports 9,500 people in America are diagnosed with this type of cancer every day. When it comes to the most dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma, research shows it has doubled from 1982 to 2011 and continues to rise. Here are some other interesting facts about skin cancer:
- More people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. than all forms of cancer combined.
- The annual cost of treating skin cancers is $8.1 billion
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
How to Spot Skin CancerThe key to successful treatment of skin cancer is to spot it early. Doctors recommend you check your own skin once a month. In addition, you should aim for a yearly exam with a dermatologist, especially if you are predisposed to skin cancer or are exposed to the sun often. An easy way to remember how to look for skin cancer is by using the ABCDE rule:
- Asymmetry: If a mark or mole looks asymmetrical, that could be cause for concern.
- Border: If the edges of a mole are ragged or blurred, get it checked out.
- Color: If the color of a mole or growth is not uniform, or includes pink, red, or blue, it is a sign of skin cancer.
- Diameter: If the size of the mole is larger than the tip of a pencil eraser, get it checked out.
- Evolving: If the mark or mole takes on different shapes, sizes, or colors, it could be the sign of skin cancer.
Risks for Skin Cancer and Skin Cancer PreventionWhile everyone is at risk for skin cancer no matter your skin color, there are some people who simply have a higher chance of being diagnosed based on these factors:
- Fair skin
- History of sunburns
- People who are exposed to the sun often
- Family history of skin cancer
- Weakened immune system
Skin Cancer Prevention OptionsAlthough most skin cancers are preventable, predispositions like having fair skin or a family history make it less avoidable. However, there are some common sense options to lessen your risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer.
- Wear sunscreen every day. Just because it’s cloudy doesn’t mean the harmful UV rays aren’t reaching your skin. Wear makeup with SPF in it, and apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day you leave your home.
- Cover yourself with proper clothing. Sunscreen does not block all harmful UV rays. While it may not seem that fun to wear a long sleeve shirt to the beach, it will make a big difference in your skin cancer prevention methods. In addition to covering your arms and legs, a hat that covers your entire face and neck is a good addition to your sun protection routine.
- Avoid the outdoors during the peak of the day. According to Mayo Clinic, the sun is the most damaging between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Plan your outdoor activities either earlier or later to avoid the sun’s most harmful hours.
- Don’t use a tanning bed. While it may seem like a golden brown tan is the perfect summer accessory, it is actually damaging your skin. A tanning bed uses UV rays that can cause skin cancer.
- Stay in the shade. If you must be outside, stay in the shade whenever possible. The more reliable the shade, the better chance you have to avoid damaging rays.