With National Skin Cancer Awareness Month having arrived, the Skin Cancer Foundation and our team at Valley View Dermatology want all of our patients to better understand how to lower their risk for this devastating disease.
With over 5 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, skin cancer ranks as the most common form of the disease in the U.S. In fact, more patients are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other types of cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, making it likely that many of our patients will have their lives impacted by this disease at some point in time.
Despite the efforts of organizations like the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer rates have continued to climb. The diagnosis and treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancer in the U.S. increased by 77 percent between 1994 and 2014. A staggering 90 percent of these cases were linked to overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This suggests that far too many people still don’t understand the risks when it comes to not wearing the appropriate protection when outdoors.
It’s not just nonmelanoma cases that are on the rise either. Researchers estimate that the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed in 2019 will increase by 7.7 percent. The number of deaths related to this disease is also expected to rise by 22 percent this year. These numbers continue a troubling trend, as the number of new invasive melanoma cases diagnosed annually increased by 54 percent between 2009 and 2014.
Researchers predict that over 7,000 people will die of melanoma in 2019. Of those, the vast majority – over 57 percent – will be men.
Unfortunately, many of these deaths could have been avoided if more people took the necessary precautions when outside. The majority of melanoma cases are caused by excessive sun exposure. According to one U.K. study, researchers estimate that 86 percent of all melanoma cases can be attributed to UV sun exposure.
Protecting Yourself from Exposure
So you can better protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays, and lower your risk for skin cancer, here are a few tips for lowering your overall risk from the Skin Cancer Foundation:
- Find some shade. Whenever outdoors for an extended period of time, especially during the hottest times of day, make sure to find cover under shade when possible.
- Avoid getting sunburned. While a sunburn may just seem like an annoyance, it’s actually a form of radiation burn that affects living tissue. Whether from an x-ray machine, a nuclear reactor or the sun, avoiding radiation is a key part of staying healthy for those of us not from the planet Krypton.
- Never use tanning beds. Tanning beds use artificial UV rays to darken the skin, but cause more than just a tan. Sitting in a UV bed to get a tan is like trying to dry off out of the shower by sitting in a giant microwave. If you want to remain healthy, both should probably be avoided.
- Always cover up when heading outside. Whether for 15 minutes or the majority of the day, you should always cover up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. If outside for most of the day, a long-sleeved shirt and pants offer far more protection than a tank top and shorts.
- Use sunscreen daily. As a general rule, you should never leave the house without applying at least an SPF 15 sunscreen to your arms and face. If spending any amount of time outside, you should increase the SPF protection to at least 30.
- Don’t let the clouds fool you. Cloudy days present just as big a risk for UV exposure as sunny days. Don’t let the clouds fool you into thinking you don’t need to take any precautions before heading outdoors.
- Visit your Salem dermatologist at least once a year. Like most forms of cancer, the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the higher the likelihood for recovery. Regular screenings provide our team at Dermatology Clinic PC the chance to spot any irregularities that need further examination.
Don’t let skin cancer catch you by surprise. Follow the tips above, and you’ll lower your risk and avoid this terrible disease.