The weather is hot, the outdoors are beckoning and the beach is calling.
But beware, the sun may be fun but it is also dangerous. Health experts at Sandhills Regional Medical Center share these eight shocking facts about skin cancer:
1. About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancer is caused by ultra-violet (UV) exposure. Much of our ultra-violet exposure comes from the sun’s UV rays. Other forms of UV exposure include tanning beds, sun lamps and therapeutic radiation, such as that given for treating other forms of cancer.
2. One person dies from melanoma almost every hour. It is a common misconception that people cannot die from skin cancer. Malignant melanoma causes more than 75 percent of deaths from skin cancer. The good news is that of the approximately 100,000 malignant melanomas diagnosed in the United States in 2007, the vast majority were cured. However, thousands of people die each year from melanoma.
3. Skin cancer accounts for nearly 50 percent of all cancers combined. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types, called basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are highly curable. They usually form on the head, face, neck, hands and arms. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma, is more dangerous, but is less common.
4. More than one million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1.5 million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year. Although the number of skin cancers in the United States continues to rise, more and more skin cancers are being caught earlier, when they are easier to treat.
5. Skin cancer is most deadly for African-Americans, Asians and Latinos. While the risk of developing melanoma is rather low for African-Americans, Asians and Latinos, this type of skin cancer is typically more deadly for these groups. It is important to know that all people are at risk of developing skin cancer, regardless of ethnicity.
6. One in three Caucasians will be diagnosed with skin cancer. While one in five Americans will be diagnosed in their lifetime with skin cancer, the risk is higher for Caucasians at one in three.
7. Just one bad burn in childhood increases the risk of developing melanoma later in life. Most skin cancers appear after age 50, but the sun’s damaging effects begin at an early age. Therefore, protection should start in childhood in order to prevent skin cancer later in life. A single, blistering sunburn during childhood increases your risk of melanoma as an adult.
8. Men are diagnosed with skin cancer more often than women. Men are twice as likely to develop skin cancer as women. Skin cancer is more common than prostate, lung or colon cancer in men older than 50.
Anyone can get skin cancer, but some things put you at higher risk, such as having:
• A lighter natural skin color;
• A personal history of skin cancer;
• A family history of melanoma;
• Exposure to the sun through work and play;
• A history of sunburns early in life;
• Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily or becomes painful in the sun;
• Blue or green eyes; and
• Naturally blond or red hair.
To minimize your risk of skin cancer, take precautions against sun exposure every day of the year, especially during mid-day hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest and do the most damage. Other precautionary measures include the following:
• Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin;
• Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck;
• Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block up to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays;
• Wear sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and blocks UVA and UVB rays; and
• Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps, as the UV rays from them are as dangerous as the UV rays from the sun.
Skin cancer is the most preventable type of cancer. All it takes to prevent the disease is to be sun-savvy and educated. In addition, regular screenings and check-ups from your physician can help detect skin cancer in its early stages of development.
Sandhills Regional Medical Center in Hamlet is a 64-bed acute care hospital that provides 24-hour emergency services, intensive care, telemetry, and inpatient and outpatient medical and surgical services. It has provided Richmond County with uninterrupted health care since 1915 and is owned by Health Management Associates of Naples, Fla.