It’s happening! Summer is nearly here and soon fun in the sun will be in full swing. The longer days mean more opportunities to go outside to enjoy the weather–but as fun as summer is, there’s nothing fun about skin cancer. Before you head out to hike, swim, garden or enjoy summer sports, remember to protect your skin from harmful rays that can lead to skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the nation, yet most cases are preventable. Skin cancer can be disfiguring and lead to expensive medical bills. Get to know your skin so you can notice changes that may indicate a problem. Discuss changes of moles or areas of your skin with your primary care provider. If you have a lesion for more than four weeks and it changes color or grows, call your provider and have it checked. Early detection is critical to treat–and beat–skin cancer.
To better understand and detect skin cancer, learn the three most common forms:
Squamous cell. Usually caused by sun exposure, squamous cell skin cancer appears on different parts of the skin. Squamous cell is a wart-like growth with a rough surface and a depression in the center. This type of skin cancer can also develop sores that stay open for weeks.
Melanoma. The most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma is very deadly. Melanoma looks like a new mole but with a more unusual appearance. The mole may have uneven, ragged edges with shades that range from tan to black. The biggest indicator of melanoma is if the mole is constantly changing.
Basal cell. Caused by sun exposure, basal cell skin cancer will look like a reddish patch on the skin that itches more than hurts. It is a growth with an undefined border and could be red, pink or white. Basal cell spots can become open sores that bleed or crust without closing for many weeks.
Soak up the fun–not the sun
Of course, don’t let fear prevent you from enjoying lovely weather. There are so many health benefits to getting outside and becoming more active. Simply learn what to do–and what to avoid–and enjoy your moments in the sun safely!
Sun Exposure Facts:
- There’s no benefit to getting a base tan. Getting a tan before serious exposure to the sun does NOT provide protection against increased risk of skin cancer.
- There’s no such thing as a healthy tan. Tan skin is damaged skin. Even without a sunburn, tanning still damages the DNA in your skin. The more you damage your skin, the greater the risk of skin cancer. In other words, tanning causes skin cancer.
- EVERYONE needs sunscreen. The daily use of an SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce squamous cell carcinoma risk by 40 percent and the risk of melanoma by 50%.
- Direct exposure to the sun? Use sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher. People out in direct sun should wear an SPF 30 or higher, applied 30 minutes prior to exposure and re-applied every two hours.
- Sunscreen is not just for a day at the beach. Sun damage happens whenever you are outside. If you’re doing yardwork, watching a baseball game or simply enjoying summer reading on the patio, the sun is just as damaging and dangerous. Wear sunscreen whenever you’re outside.
- Indoor tanning is not safer. Just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer; the risk of melanoma increases by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma increases by 29%.
- Protection beyond sunscreen. There are other ways to protect yourself from the sun–wear sun hats, coverings, long sleeves and stay in the shade to help reduce the risk of skin-damaging tanning and sunburn.
Discuss your skin with your primary care provider
If you have questions about your skin or a spot, please contact your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment.
Again, early detection is critical to treat–and beat–skin cancer.
Everyone under the sun needs protection
It’s easy to overlook these basic reminders but remember: a tan today could mean skin cancer in the future. Take a little extra time to apply–and reapply–sunscreen and use it every time you’re outside. Don’t miss a day; don’t miss a spot. You’ll appreciate the time you took to keep your skin healthier, more youthful looking and help prevent a very serious, even deadly, cancer.
1 American Academy of Dermatology indoor tanning fact sheet. Accessed April, 2018.