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Skin Cancer Prevention

Skin Cancer Prevention

Skin cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer worldwide, affecting millions of individuals each year. There are three primary types: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Melanoma, while less common than BCC and SCC, is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and can spread rapidly if not detected and treated early.  While basel cell and squamous cell carcinomas are less likely to spread to other areas of the body and are more easily treated, their incidence is much higher and they ultimately cause more deaths than melanoma does. 

Skin cancer is pervasive in the United States and worldwide. These statistics highlight its prevalence and impact:

  • It’s the most common cancer: Skin cancer holds the unfortunate title of being the most widespread cancer in the U.S and worldwide.
  • It has alarming incidence rates: approximately one in every five Americans will grapple with skin cancer in their lifetime. Each day, an estimated 9,500 people receive a skin cancer diagnosis, totaling over 3 million cases annually. 
  • In 2020, there were nearly 1.2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer worldwide compared to 324,635 cases of melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) accounted for 78% of all skin cancer cases and 63,700 deaths worldwide. During the same time, melanoma resulted in 57,000 deaths.
  • Women have seen a sharper rise in NMSC incidence compared to men, though men typically exhibit higher rates of skin cancer after age 50. 
  • White populations face significantly higher skin cancer rates compared to other races, though individuals with darker skin tones are often diagnosed at later stages, leading to lower survival rates.
  • Early detection significantly improves survival rates, with a 99% chance of survival if melanoma is treated before spreading to the lymph nodes. 

UV exposure presents a significant risk factor for all types of skin cancer. Other factors include genetics, history of sunburns, and weakened immune systems.  Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds is the leading cause of skin cancer. UV rays can damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to mutations that promote cancerous growth. 

Fortunately, sun-safe habits greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer. This includes sunscreen and sun-protective clothing. Apply a broad-spectrum mineral or chemical sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed skin, even on cloudy days. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if swimming or sweating. Chemical sunscreen must be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure while mineral sunscreen works immediately. Also limit direct sun exposure during peak hours (10am to 4pm). Seek shade under trees, umbrellas, or awnings when outdoors. 

When choosing UPF clothing, look for pieces that cover the most over-exposed areas (chest, arms, hands and legs). Wear wide-brimmed hats or a hoodie with a baseball cap and sunglasses to help protect the face and eyes. 

Finally, avoid tanning beds. They emit harmful UV radiation that increases the risk of skin cancer and prematurely age the skin.

Skin cancer can be detected early and stopped from spreading with regular self-examinations and annual skin checks by a dermatologist. Familiarize yourself with the ABCDEs of melanoma: (a)symmetry, (b) order irregularity, (c)olor variation, (d)iameter greater than 6mm and/or (e)volving size, shape, or color. If you notice any suspicious moles or changes in your skin, promptly consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Spread the word! You can help promote skin cancer awareness by sharing information about prevention strategies, the importance of regular screenings, and the dangers of UV exposure. Encourage friends and family to prioritize sun safety and seek medical attention for any concerning skin changes.

Photo by Ferran Feixas on Unsplash





Skin cancer: Why deaths from non-melanoma variety are on the rise (