May is National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Monthby Elizabeth Roskam - No Comments
Posted on May 9th, 2012 4:20 pm
Spring has finally arrived and with it comes longer, warmer days and an urge to spend as much time outside as possible. Increased time spent out of doors boosts more than your mood; it can also increase your risk of skin cancer. May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month -- the perfect time to take steps toward protecting yourself and your family.
Over 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year, making skin cancer the most common form of cancer in the United States. There are more new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year than cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon combined. All types of skin cancer have been on the rise, including the deadliest form: melanoma. Alarmingly, melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults aged 25 to 29 and second most common form for those between 15 to 29 years of age.
In 2012 alone, it is estimated that 76,250 people will be diagnosed with melanoma nationally, 2,460 residing in Illinois. Almost 10,000 people across the country will lose their lives to melanoma this year; 350 of these fatalities will come from Illinois. There are many misconceptions that surround this disease but the truth is that anyone can develop skin cancer. Skin cancer does not discriminate against any race, hair color, or age. While people with fair skin, moles, and a history of sunburns are at higher risk, African American, Hispanic, and Asian populations have a much higher fatality rate from this disease, despite a lower incidence.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, but you don't need to be one of them. Take these necessary precautions to help reduce your risk:
- Avoid or limit sun exposure when the sun is at its peak, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA rays, with SPF of 15 or higher, even on cloudy days.
- Apply at least one ounce — about a shot glass full — of sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply frequently — at least every two hours if in continuous sunlight or directly after swimming.
- Wear sunglasses treated to absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation, use a lip balm with an SPF of at least 15, and wear tight-weave clothing with long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat.
Remember to also check your skin regularly to notice any changes and follow the ABCDE rule. Be vigilant about any new freckles, moles, or spots that show Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color that is not uniform, Diameter greater than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser), and Elevation differences. Those with no history or risk factors need to make annual appointments with their dermatologist or qualified health practitioner for a skin-check; those with risk factors may need visits more frequently. Early detection is crucial. Many types of skin cancer spread rapidly, especially melanoma which is responsible for less than five percent of skin cancer cases but over seventy-five percent of skin cancer fatalities.
By all means, enjoy the time you spend out of doors in the coming months, but be mindful and practice sun safety -- in springtime and all year long. Instill these practices in children and family members. Remember, it's never too early, or too late, to start protecting yourself against skin cancer.
For more information about skin cancer prevention and early detection, visit the Prevent Cancer Foundation's Web site at www.preventcancer.org.
Elizabeth Roskam is a member of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation, and the spouse of U.S. Representative Peter Roskam.
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