May is National Skin Cancer Month: Think Protection!

By SMW Staff

skin cancer awareness monthMay is national skin cancer awareness month. And yes, it is no coincidence that this month coincides with the start of our fun in the sun time of year.

By now, I have no doubt that you have heard the warnings about over-exposure to the sun and how much you can do to protect yourself by generously slathering on the suntan lotion with an SPF rating of at least 30, 45, or higher. In previous skin care articles we have covered the issue of sun exposure not only as a cancer risk but also as it relates to the damage too much sun does to your skin’s overall health, adding five, ten, or more years to your appearance.

As a matter of health, however, this is a good time of year to recall (or learn for the first time) some interesting facts about skin cancer. These four facts are dramatic and if they don’t get your attention, I’m not sure what will.

Skin Cancer Facts

  1. Skin cancer and melanoma account for about 50% of all types of cancers diagnosed combined.
  2. Skin cancer is one of the more preventable types of cancer, if you follow some simple steps.
  3. More than 90% of skin cancer is caused by excessive exposure to the sun. And that, in and of itself, tells you how preventable most skin cancers are.
  4. Every hour in America a person dies from skin cancer.

That puts Swine Flu hysteria in perspective. This simple fact would get more coverage, but the news media gets excited about the “new new” thing. Old news, like how deadly skin cancer can be just doesn’t have the same glamour, never mind the fact that the threat to your life is infinitely greater.

Skin cancer is divided into two categories: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

  1. Melanoma is a very dangerous form of skin cancer. The good news there, if there is any, is that melanoma accounts for 4% of all skin cancer cases diagnosed.
  2. Non-melanomas, although serious, are much less life threatening and easier to treat.

Two other amazing facts about skin cancer.

One out of every five Americans will be diagnosed in their lifetime with skin cancer. But the risk factor is higher for Caucasians. European-Americans have a one out of three chance of having skin cancer at some time in their lives. This doesn’t mean if you’re risk factor is lower as it is for African-Americans, Asians, and Latinos, that you can ignore the threat because, for these populations, skin cancer can be the most deadly. This could be a lack of vigilance on the part of non-Caucasians when it comes to the dangers of this disease.

But perhaps the most amazing fact of all is this: Just one bad sunburn in childhood doubles the risk factor for melanoma later in life. Protecting children against sun exposure is very important. And remember, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. For you personally, this means if you can remember as a child having one blistering bad sunburn, it’s wise to be extra vigilant when it comes to unprotected sun exposure.

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to know the facts and as you prepare for this season’s fun in the sun grab some UV protection. It might be the smartest thing you do all year. Check out the National Skin Cancer Foundation for lots of helpful resource information about this disease and tips on self-examination.

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