Tips on Skin Cancer and Sun Protection

Even though we have been deluged with rain this spring, summer is quickly approaching and many Americans will be heading out into the sun. Whether you spend time at the beach, in the mountains or sightseeing in the city, you will be exposing your skin to the restorative but also harmful rays of the sun. 

Arnold Baskies, MD, a Virtua cancer surgeon and Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society (ACS), says, “America is suffering a tsunami of skin cancer.” The statistics show that, annually, there are more new cases of skin cancer in the U.S. than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon combined.  In 2018, according to the ACS, it is estimated that over 91,000 people will be diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancers are also on the rise—5.4 million of these are treated each year. 

Before age 50, women are more at risk for developing melanoma; however, after 50 men have a higher risk. Why? “Women tend to take better care of themselves and go to the doctor to be checked,” explained Baskies. “Men don’t get as much screening and preventative care.” 

Among Americans, the risk for developing melanoma has increased by 2000% since the 1930’s. Researchers believe the incidences of melanoma will continue to increase for the next ten to twenty years.

The reason for the increase? Tanning.

Indoor tanning is especially harmful because there is considerable exposure to UV rays in tanning beds. People who have used indoor tanning beds more than ten times in their lives, have a 34% risk of developing melanoma compared to people who have never been exposed to tanning beds. Indoor tanning accounts for over 400,000 cases of skin cancer every year in the U.S. 

Protecting your skin when out in the sun is necessary to help avoid getting skin cancer. The FDA recommends these sun safety behaviors:

  • Limit time in the sun during the hours of 10 am and 2 pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest
  • Wear clothing to cover the skin as much as possible
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen product with an SPF of at least 15 or higher 
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, more often if you are seating or immersing yourself in water
  • Receive annual skin evaluations from your doctor to identify any possible problems 

This life-saving message about wearing sunscreen seems to have been embraced by many people. Recently, two New Jersey shore towns installed free sunscreen dispensers to keep vacationers safe, not sorry.

 

— June 20, 2018

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