The consequences of sun worship command extra attention during Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, and the latest data show there is much education still to be done.
Doctors tell more than 1 million Americans each year they have skin cancer, by far the most common of all cancers. One in five people is expected to develop some kind of skin cancer in his or her lifetime.
Most cases are a direct result of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, according to the American Cancer Society. Both the common basal and squamous cell skin cancers tend to be found on sun-exposed areas, and incidence is tied to lifetime sun exposure. Melanoma, more deadly but less prevalent, also is tied to sun exposure.
Of additional concern is that melanoma rates have been rising an average 1.4 percent each year for the last 10 years, according to data released in April by the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program.
SEER analyzed cancer statistics from 1975 through 2012, the most recent year for which data are available. The total incidence rate for melanoma for 2012 was 22.87 per 100,000 people, up slightly from 2011 and dwarfing the 7.89 rate in 1975, the study’s first year.
“These latest figures reflect the need for sustained education when it comes to the dangers posed by skin cancer,” said American Society for Dermatologic Surgery President George J. Hruza, MD, MBA. “ASDS is committed to remaining at the forefront of informing the public about ways to minimize their chances of developing skin cancer. It is a responsibility we take to heart.”
To raise awareness about the need for men to adopt sun-protective behaviors and the dangers of indoor tanning, ASDS is distributing two videos nationwide in observance of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The new videos supply insight into some of the risk factors for skin cancer.
“Most skin cancers are preventable,” said Hruza. “We believe these videos have the potential to convince people across the nation to make modest lifestyle adjustments that could save their lives. Taking the time to share these videos will make a meaningful contribution in the fight against skin cancer.”
ASDS member dermatologists – experts in the health, beauty and function of skin – recommend a three-fold preventive approach of protection, early recognition and diagnosis, and screenings.
Protection and prevention tips include:
• Reduce sun exposure. Minimize time in the sun, especially when the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Remember that indirect sunlight also can be dangerous.
• Apply sunscreen. ASDS member dermatologists recommend applying a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 and a broad-spectrum lip balm a half hour before exposure to the sun and reapplying both regularly when outside.
• Wear appropriate clothing. A white T-shirt only provides the protection of an SPF 4 sunscreen, so darker colors or tightly woven fabrics – such as silk and polyester – are safer options. A wide-brimmed hat can reduce exposure of the scalp, forehead, neck, ears and eyes by 70 percent.
• Avoid sunburns. An individual’s risk of developing skin cancer doubles with five or more sunburns in a lifetime.
• Stay out of tanning beds. People who use them at least once a month increase their risk of skin cancer by 55 percent, according to studies, and the numbers are more ominous for people who begin such tanning regimens in their teens or 20s.
Screening, detection and diagnosis tips include:
• Know the warning signs. Marks of suspicious skin lesions and moles include asymmetry, jagged or irregular borders, color variations, diameter larger than a pencil eraser or changes.
• Examine skin regularly. Look especially for any new black-colored moles or changes in the size, shape, outline, color or feel of existing moles.
• Know risk factors. People at higher risk include those with fair skin and blond or red hair, have a family history of skin cancer or of blistering sunburns, spend or spent a lot of time outdoors, undergo indoor tanning or have many moles.
• Seek medical help. People who discover suspicious lesions or are concerned about a mole or lesion should consult a dermatologist.
ASDS offers a wealth of information about skin cancer, including do’s and don’ts, treatments, myths and the Sun Safe Soccer and Sun Safe Surfing programs. Visit http://www.asds.net/SkinCancerInformation.aspx.
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