Skin cancer: A growing epidemic

Skin cancer: A growing epidemic

Skin cancer is a growing epidemic in America, with more than 5.4 million new cases diagnosed each year. That is more than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined.

To raise awareness about skin cancer and the importance of sun safety, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (NCSCP) declares the Friday before Memorial Day (May 28 this year) as “Don’t Fry Day.” People are encouraged to protect themselves while outdoors, especially those who work outside regularly, such as farmers and construction workers.

Similarly, the American Academy of Dermatology established Melanoma Monday, which is the first Monday in May (May 3 this year). The observance draws attention to the dangers of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

The NCSCP urges everyone to think beyond sunscreen to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors. It offers the following sun-safety tips:

  • Avoid sunburns and tanning beds
  • Wear sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses; seek shade
  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand because they are reflective
  • Get vitamin D safely through foods and supplements

The American Cancer Society makes sun safety easy to remember with the catchphrase: “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!” When outdoors, SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, and WRAP on sunglasses.

Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. The strength of the sun’s UV rays depends on a number of factors. These include time of day, season of the year, distance from the equator, ground elevation (altitude), cloud cover, and reflection off surfaces.

Individuals with lighter-toned skin are more susceptible to UV damage, although people of all races and ethnicities can be at risk for skin cancer. Those who have a family history of skin cancer, moles or freckles, or a history of severe sunburns early in life, are at a higher risk of skin cancer.

The best way to detect skin cancer early is to examine your skin regularly for changes in moles and skin growths.