Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Reduce Your Risk
Over 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, making skin cancer the most common cancer in the United States. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. While those of Caucasian descent are more likely to develop skin cancer, different ethnicities are at higher risk for particular malignancies: those with Latino, Chinese, and Japanese Asian backgrounds tend to develop basal cell carcinoma (BCC). But squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), is more frequent among African Americans and Asian Indians.
Skin cancer occurs when mutations form in the DNA of skin cells, causing them to grow out of control. Usually, the damage results from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes from the sun and artificial rays (tanning beds, sunlamps). About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
While skin cancer most often appears in areas that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, head, neck, hands, lips, ears and scalp, the disease can also develop in other areas, such as scars, skin ulcers or in the genital region.
Reduce Your Risk
Fortunately, there are steps individuals can take to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer.
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- If you are in the sun, cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month and see your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
Aim for Early Detection
While prevention should be the goal, early detection is also important. Use the “ABCDE rule” to look for some of the common signs of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer:
Asymmetry: One part of a mole or birthmark doesn't match the other.
Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
Diameter: The spot is larger than ¼ inch across – about the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.