Skin cancer: Shining Light on the Facts

Skin cancer includes basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma and other uncommon skin cancers. During the summer, it is important to remember that spending time in the sun means protecting your skin from its harmful rays.


Skin cancer prevention is becoming increasingly important as rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have increased among young men by 400 percent and women by 800 percent in the U.S. in the last 40 years, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

The good news, from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s Health of America news release on skin cancer, is that, in 2016, the skin cancer diagnosis rate was lower in the Utica/Rome MSA (3.7 percent) than in the state (5.0 percent) and the nation (4.3 percent).

We need to remember, though, that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Nearly 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every single day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The prevalence of melanoma diagnoses across the nation increased 7 percent over a four-year span. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

However, we can significantly reduce our risk of developing skin cancer by being more aware of the dangers and taking precautions. Many believe that skin cancer only affects older people, but in fact teenagers, and young adults, are also at risk and need to take prevention seriously.

 It is important to stay ahead of the warning signs by checking your skin and moles monthly with the ABCDE rule.  This test breaks down the five warning signs of melanoma:

A is for Asymmetry: Having mismatched sides

B is for Border: Having irregular, or jagged edges

C is for Color: Inconsistent/discoloration

D is for Diameter: Lager than about ¼ inch

E is for Evolving: Changing in size, shape or color

 Numbers don’t lie, and statistics show that one in every three cancers is a skin cancer. Having more than five sunburns during your lifetime can double your risk for getting melanoma, and yet, more than one-third of U.S. adults reported having a sunburn in the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regular, daily use with multiple applications of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Only applying sunscreen during a barbeque, or beach day is not enough.

Even on cloudy days, ultraviolet rays from the sun can still cause sunburn on unprotected skin. Exposure to ultraviolet rays from indoor tanning beds is also discouraged. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.

Other precautions need to be taken as well.  Here are some precautionary tips from the CDC for staying safe in the sun this summer:

  • Using a sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Wearing UVA/UVB-protective sunglasses
  • Protecting your face, ears and neck with a wide-brimmed hat
  • Wearing clothing that covers exposed skin
  • Staying in the shade, especially during midday
  • Avoiding indoor tanning.

 

To learn more, read the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s Health of America Report on skin cancer here: https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/reports/skin-cancer-shining-light-the-facts.