May is Melanoma month. You’ve heard the warnings. You know UV rays can be harmful. But sometimes you may forget your sunscreen, or wonder just how careful you need to be. To make it super simple, I’ve put together a summer “cheat sheet.” Post this on your refrigerator, or fold it up and tuck it in your purse. Here are the basic guidelines you need to know to keep you and your family safe in the summer sun.
Skin Cancer—Don’t Forget That:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 50,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) in 2007. Over 8,000 people died from it.
- According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined.
- Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to the age of 65 will have skin cancer at least once.1
- Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old, and the second most common for young people 15-29 years old.2
Risk Factors—Be Extra Careful If:
- You’re a white men over age 50 (diagnosed with melanoma more often than any other group).3
- You have blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and freckled skin that sunburns easily.
- You use or have ever used a tanning bed. (Indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.4)
- You got a lot of sunburns when you were a kid or a teen.
- You live at a higher elevation.
- You have a lot of moles.
- Someone in your family—a parent or a sibling—had skin cancer.
- You had a weakened immune system at some point in your life.
- Avoid the sun when it is most intense, between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm.
- Wear protective clothing when you go out like UV-protecting sunglasses, long pants and long sleeves, and broad-brimmed hats.
- Always use a safe sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. Reapply every two hours, and after exercising, swimming, or sweating.
- Stay away from tanning beds!
- Be extra cautious when you’re on medications—some increase sun sensitivity.
- Check your skin regularly. Watch for moles or dark spots that have an irregular shape, have mixed colors (tan to brown to black), or continue to grow larger than about a quarter inch. Make regular appointments with your dermatologist.
Are you taking care of your skin this summer? Let us know of the steps you’re taking to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
- Sun Protection. Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2009/2010 Update. National Cancer Institute.
- Bleyer A, O’Leary M, Barr R, Ries LAG (eds): Cancer epidemiology in older adolescents and young adults 15 to 29 years of age, including SEER incidence and survival: 1975-2000. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2006.
- National Cancer Institute. SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Melanoma of the Skin.
- Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Berwick M, Weinstock MA, Anderson KE, Warshaw EM. Indoor tanning and risk of melanoma: a case-control study in a highly-exposed population. Cancer Epidem Biomar Prev 2010 June; 19(6):1557-1568.
Photo courtesy hatadventures via Flickr.com.
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