May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month.
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, more than 1 million cases are diagnosed annually but could be prevented by protection from the sun's rays and avoiding indoor tanning. The American Cancer Society does not recommend the use of tanning beds. Instead, try a spray-on tan or a number of lotions or creams are available.
How can you prevent skin cancer? The American Cancer Society's awareness campaign for skin cancer prevention promotes the slogan "Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap," which is a catch phrase that reminds people of the four key ways they can protect themselves from UV radiation:
• Slip on a shirt
• Slop on sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher
• Slap on a hat
• Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them from ultraviolet light.
Pay attention to your time spent in those UV rays - stay out of the sun during peak times (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and remember that a nice tan is never worth risking your life.
According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer - is expected to be diagnosed in about 76,250 Americans in 2012. There are many risk factors for melanoma: overexposure to UV radiation (sunlight); presence of atypical or numerous moles (more than 50); fair skin with blond or red hair; family history; and a weak immune system.
The good news is most melanomas can be found early and treated successfully if you know what to look for. Remember to look for any suspicious or unusual moles using the American Cancer Society's ABCD rule:
Asymmetry-one half of the mole does not match the other.
Border-edges of the mole are irregular (blurred, ragged).
Color-color is not uniform and may have patches of pink, red, white or black.
Diameter-melanoma moles are usually larger than 1/4 inch, but this is not always the case.
It's critical that we all take the necessary precautions to avoid too much sun exposure without proper protection. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the sun without putting yourself at greater risk for skin cancer.
One bottle of sunscreen should not last a summer. For maximum protection, use at least an SPF of 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, never use sunscreen after its expiration date, and apply it liberally before going into the sun. During sun exposure, one full ounce should be re-applied every hour.
Examine your skin once a month. If you find a suspicious mole, talk to your doctor. Nothing increases cancer survival rates more than early detection, and nothing lowers cancer rates more than prevention. This summer, stay safe in the sun.