May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. In Florida, there is good reason to be aware of the dangers that can lurk in the skin. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and the world.
We kick off the month with Melanoma Monday, which spotlights the most aggressive and deadliest form of skin cancer, which accounts for 4 percent of cases in the United States. On average, one person dies from melanoma every hour! Melanomas often resemble moles (most are black or brown) and can develop on their own or from a changing, pre-existing mole.
Approximately 95 percent of skin cancers in the United States are non-melanoma skin cancers: basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers take on various appearances and degrees of aggressiveness.
Skin cancer, when recognized early, is almost always curable. If left untreated, skin cancers can rapidly grow in size, spread to other areas of the body, and become fatal.
We end the month with Don’t Fry Day (Friday before Memorial Day), a day to raise awareness about sun safety. Most skin cancers are caused by excessive intense ultraviolet sun exposure. Below are some important tips for sun safety and skin cancer prevention:
• Seek the shade, especially between the peak hours of sun exposure (10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
• Cover up with clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses
• Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day! For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 50.
• Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
• Avoid tanning beds.
• Do a self skin scan (and scan your partner) every month to assess for new or changing lesions.
• See your dermatologist every year for a skin exam or more frequently if you have a history of skin cancer.