It’s May (!) and, as Spring continues to bloom, so to does our desire to get back outdoors and dust off that “sickness” known as cabin fever. Back into the sun and, with that, back into heavy applications of sunscreen. At least we hope you’ve hopped on the sunscreen bandwagon. We’ve been beating that drum for years no. The importance of protecting yourself from the sun’s UV rays is that of sincere consequence. If you’re not doing it, you’re subjecting yourself to the very real probability that you’ll be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in your life.
- Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.
- Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
- It is estimated that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
- Melanoma rates in the United States doubled from 1982 to 2011.
- Even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma.
- Experiencing five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15 and 20 increases one’s melanoma risk by 80 percent and non-melanoma skin cancer risk by 68 percent.
Okay, we’ll stop with the numbers for a moment…
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) had deemed May Melanoma Awareness Month. It’s recognized nationally, and this year, the AAD is putting the spotlight on “Skin Cancer Hero’s.” Now, we’re not claiming that we’re heroes, but we are certainly doing what we can to help facilitate the importance of conducting skin checks to look for skin abnormalities. In fact, we’re working with Wentworth Douglass Hospital in Dover, as well as Frisbee Memorial Hospital in Rochester to give free skin checks (appointments are necessary).
The importance of early detection is vast and imperative. 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.
What are the risk factors for melanoma skin cancer?
- Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- Fair skin, freckling and light hair
- Family history of melanoma
- Personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers
- Gender (men are at higher risk)
- Xeroderma pigmentosum (an inherited skin condition)
What are some general skin protection guidelines?
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should only be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
To that last point, our free skin cancer screenings at Wentworth Douglass Hospital will be held on May 8th and 10th, and the Frisbee Memorial Hospital sessions will be held on May 8th only. Feel free to contact us for more details.
And, for more resources on skin cancer awareness and helpful tips, visit: https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/programs/skin-cancer-awareness-month.