As the warmer weather picks up and we start spending more time outside, it’s important to educate ourselves on the serious risks, causes, and dangers of skin cancer. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and with Memorial Day right around the corner, it’s a great reminder to love and protect your skin from the most common type of cancer worldwide.
Get the Facts About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the outer layer of skin grow at an alarming rate. These cells experience out-of-control growth due to unrepaired damage to the DNA, and it can affect anyone, regardless of skin color. There are four main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), Merkle cell carcinoma (MCC), and melanoma.
Shocking facts about skin cancer:
- 1 in every 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
- In the U.S., more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer each day.
- People are diagnosed with skin cancer more than all other cancers combined.
- Having five or more sunburns in your life doubles your risk for melanoma.
- Every hour, more than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S.
Fortunately, skin cancer has a 99 percent 5-year survival rate when detected early! Like many cancers, early detection is possible with the help of a doctor. Getting your moles checked annually and regularly self-examining your skin are diligent ways to catch skin cancer in its earliest form. When self-examining, keep in mind that only about 20 to 30 percent of melanomas are found in moles, while 70 to 80 percent develop on regular skin.
Consider reaching out to your doctor if you have:
- Used tanning beds.
- Unusual moles in the past, or any that currently look irregular.
- Had an organ transplant.
- More than 50 moles on your body.
- People in your family who have or had melanoma.
Just like detection, prevention is also in your control.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation—from both the sun and a tanning bed—is a proven human carcinogen and the main cause of skin cancer. One study found that you only receive about 23 percent of your lifetime UV exposure by 18 years old and 74 percent by the age of 59, not reaching 100 percent of UV exposure until age 78. This is helpful because it proves that the efforts we take to protect our skin during our adult years can have a significant impact on reducing our risk of skin cancer. In fact, the daily use of sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent!
Although sunscreen is often associated with the summertime, it’s beneficial to wear every day, year-round. Sunscreen not only fights skin cancer triggers but also helps you maintain an even skin tone and prevent fine lines, wrinkles, and premature aging.
Everyone’s skin is different, and some people may require a higher number of sun protection factor (SPF) than others. Not sure what number SPF is right for your skin tone? Check out Banana Boat’s helpful SPF selection guide here.
For ultimate protection from UV rays, be sure to slip, slop, slap, and wrap before you go outside:
- Slip on a shirt
- Slop on sunscreen
- Slap on a hat
- Wrap on sunglasses
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, sunburns happen. You can treat your sunburn at home by drinking lots of water to rehydrate your body, rubbing aloe vera and lotion on the affected area, and using cold compresses or taking a cold shower for relief. Once the sunburn fades, keep an eye on the area of skin to check for any abnormalities.
If you or a loved one experience a sunburn accompanied by any of the following, please visit our facility or seek medical care.
Consult a doctor if your sunburn:
- Is blistering and covers a large part of your body.
- Is accompanied by a high-grade fever, headache, chills, dehydration, serious pain, confusion, or nausea.
- Gets infected or shows signs of swelling, pus, or red streaks.
- Doesn’t respond to at-home care.
Did you learn something new for Skin Cancer Awareness Month? Share this article with your friends and family to encourage others to have a safe summer in the sun!