Summer is finally here, and along with it many more opportunities to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. As we age, however, our skin becomes more susceptible to cancer – and skin cancer is the most common type of cancer not only in the US but worldwide. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70.
The main cause of skin cancer is unprotected exposure to sun, sunlamps, and tanning booths. Even unprotected time in the sun many years prior can show up as cancer later in life. Anyone of any skin color can get skin cancer. Those with fair skin and freckles are at greatest risk; however, those with darker skin are often misdiagnosed or diagnosed at a much later, more dangerous stage.
There are three primary types of skin cancer:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma: This type accounts for more than 90% of skin cancer in the United States and is the most common of all cancers. It is slow-growing and rarely spreads to any other part of the body. It’s usually found on the parts of skin most exposed to the sun (head, face, neck, hands, arms).
- Pearly or waxy appearance
- Sunken center
- Irregular blood vessels on surface
- Tendency to bleed easily after injury
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This type also grows slowly and occasionally spreads elsewhere in the body. It’s also usually found on the parts of skin most exposed to the sun but can be seen in other parts of the body as well.
- Raised, dull-red skin lesion
- Thick-crusted scale
- May have an ulcerated appearance
- Melanoma: This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It isn’t as common as the other types but can grow more quickly and spread to other organs. It can be deadly if not caught quickly.
- Asymmetric, where one half looks different than the other
- Often has irregular borders
- Color changes or more than one color
- Diameter is greater than the size of a pencil eraser
- Changes in size, shape, tenderness, bleeding, or shade may evolve
The Skin Cancer Foundation offers 9 tips for protecting your skin:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Don’t get sunburned.
- Avoid tanning, and never use UV tanning beds.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Use sunscreen on babies over the age of six months.
- 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 sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.
Fifty people die of skin cancer every day, but if you catch it early enough, you can usually be effectively treated. Your risk for melanoma doubles if you’ve had more than five sunburns, but regular daily use of SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces your risk by 50%.
If you are looking for in home care for your loved ones, get in touch with us at Assisting Hands Home Care serving Columbus, OH.
SOURCES: ClearCare, Skin Cancer Foundation, National Institute on Aging, University of California-San Francisco, Cancer Treatment Centers of America