As the warmer weather picks up and we start spending more time outside, it’s necessary to educate ourselves on the serious risks, causes, and dangers of skin cancer. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a great reminder to love and protect your skin from the most common cancer worldwide.

This month, Alexandria Emergency Hospital is reviewing how to have fun in the sun responsibly, while preventing melanoma.

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. 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
  • Every hour, more than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S.
  • In the U.S. more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer daily
  • 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

Prevention

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation—from both the sun and a tanning bed—is a proven human carcinogen and the main cause of skin cancer. There have been rumors that people get 80 percent of their lifetime UV exposure by the time they are 18 years old. But despite this false information, one study found that you only receive about 23 percent of your lifetime UV dose by that age.


  Ages   Average Accumulated Sun Exposure*
1-18      23 percent
19-40      47 percent
41-59      74 percent
60-78      100 percent
*Based on a 78-year life span


This is helpful information because it shows that our efforts to protect our skin in our adult years can have a significant impact on reducing the 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 summer months, 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

Detection

Just like prevention, detection is also in your control. 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

Did you learn something new for Skin Cancer Awareness Month? Share this article with your friends and family to do your part to raise awareness about skin cancer this May!

Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Alexandria Emergency Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.


Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on Alexandria Emergency Hospital, or any of our concierge-level medical facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.