Skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the United States, with more than two million people diagnosed annually. The majority of cases are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light that is generated by the sun or indoor tanning devices. In addition to skin cancer, UV light can also cause wrinkles, dark spots and other signs of premature aging. This damage is completely preventable, though, and skin cancer can often be cured if it is found and treated early.
During National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, everyone is encouraged to take action to help prevent skin cancer by reducing the risk of UV damage. Here are some general guidelines:
- Do not allow your skin to burn – A severe sunburn will not only increase your risk of developing skin cancer, but can also lead to other medical conditions, such as heat stroke, exhaustion, dehydration, cramps and rashes. Additionally, your risk of developing melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, will double if you have five or more severe sunburns over the course of your lifetime.
- Seek shade outdoors – This is particularly important during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s harmful UV rays are at their peak intensity.
- Protect your skin with clothing – Densely woven, dark-colored fabrics offer the best defense against UV rays, and the more skin you cover, the better protected you will be. For the best defense, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Apply sunscreen every day – Even if you spend most of your time indoors, it is essential to wear sunscreen because harmful UV rays can penetrate windows and reach you in other ways. Choose a sunscreen that is labeled “broad spectrum” and rated SPF 30 or higher. If you will be spending time outdoors, apply 1 ounce (approximately a shot glass full) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before you head outside, then reapply every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Do not use indoor tanning devices – The UV radiation emitted by tanning booths, beds and lamps is known to cause skin cancer, and the risk increases along with the amount of time a person spends tanning indoors.
- Examine your skin from head to toe every month – Self exams can significantly increase the likelihood of detecting the early warning signs of skin cancer. If you notice a change in an existing mole or discover a new skin lesion, see a physician right away.
- See a dermatologist regularly for a professional skin exam – You can also find out if Moffitt Cancer Center’s Mole Patrol® is coming to your area. This mobile skin cancer screening program travels to venues throughout Florida to provide skin cancer screenings, educational materials and sunscreen samples to the public, free of charge.
If you have questions about skin cancer prevention and treatment, you can consult with the experts at Moffitt without a referral. Call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete a new patient registration form online.