You may be surprised to hear skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, researchers at the American Cancer Society tell us more skin cancers are diagnosed in the United States each year than all other cancers combined. But knowing some basic skin cancer facts can keep you safe in the sun all summer long.
Skin cancer affects more than three million people each year, but it doesn’t have to. That’s because most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which typically comes from spending too much time in the sun. Some skin cancers may come from man-made sources, like indoor tanning beds and sun lamps, but in either case you can take precautions that will drastically decrease your risk.
If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, your chances of making a full recovery improve tremendously if you catch it early. But detection has to start with you. So, here are some skin cancer facts you shouldn’t ignore if you want to stay safe in the sun.
One of the most obvious skin cancer facts you may come across is how to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. You should start by putting sunscreen on all exposed skin.
Some key sun safety tips from the Food and Drug Administration include:
You should apply your sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outside. You’ll need at least one ounce of sunscreen, or about the amount it takes to fill a shot glass, to evenly cover your body from head to toe.
Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays can reach your skin
And if you have kids you should start talking to a pediatrician about skin cancer prevention early. The U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends as soon as when your child is 6 months old.
There are multiple types of skin cancer;he most harmful form is Melanoma.
Melanoma develops when the sun’s UVA rays enter the epidermis. The UVA rays causes a reaction with melanin in your skin. The reaction is meant to protect your skin—it’s a tan. But UVA rays go deeper into your skin and penetrate through the epidermis cells to the blood vessels and nerves. This can cause a weakening of the immune system and allow melanoma to develop.
Melanoma is treatable if detected early. If not, advanced melanoma can spread to your lymph nodes and internal organs, and kill you.
Melanoma can be indicated by moles that have irregular shapes or color. To determine if you have a mole exhibiting signs of melanoma, follow the “ABCDE rule.” This stands for:
If you notice a mole that is changing in any of the above categories, make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately. Since it can be a challenge to check certain parts of your body yourself, like your scalp and back, it’s also a good idea to make regular “mole check” appointments for early detection.
Aside from fading with age, your moles should generally stay the same size and shape for years to come. If you have a mole that changes in size, shape or color, it might be a sign that melanoma is developing.
One skin cancer fact many people don’t realize is that melanoma is not the only type you should be concerned about. The American Academy of Dermatology describes the three other types of skin cancer like this:
Preventing skin cancer starts with you, so regular mole checks are an important part of decreasing your risk.
People with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop skin cancer.
When it comes to your skin health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Skin cancer can be easily treated if detected early, so be vigilant about your personal checks. Also remember to wear sunscreen, reapply, take breaks from the sun, and drink lots of water. You can also download our free “Summer Survival Guide”, which has six more tips on how to stay safe in the sun.