Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types. The number of skin cancer cases continues to rise, with most caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet rays. Exposure comes from the sun, but some may also come from tanning beds. Younger women have become at increased risk for skin cancer due to the ‘must have a tan’ attitude for proms, weddings and other special events.There are two main types of UV radiation that reach the earth, UVA and UVB. UVB radiation is well known to cause damage to the DNA of skin cells. Scientists now believe that both UVA and UVB rays contribute to skin damage including skin cancer. So, in short, there are no safe UV rays.
Skin cancer can be broken down by two groups: melanomas and non-melanomas. Non-melanomas include basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers. These are the most common cancers of the skin. Melanoma is much less common but can be far more serious. All are almost always curable in early stages, but melanoma is more likely to spread to other parts of the body, where it can be hard to treat.
Risk factors for skin cancer can include:
- Unprotected or excessive exposure to UV radiation
- Occupational exposure due to type of employment
- Fair skin complexion
- Family history of cancer
- Multiple or atypical moles
- Severe sunburn as a child
The good news is that there is much you can do to protect yourself and your family from skin cancer. The biggest being to take steps which can help ensure an early diagnosis so that it can be treated effectively. Both patients and physicians play an important role in finding skin cancer. If you notice any of the following, check with your physician.
Asymmetry: One half of a spot on your skin or a mole does not match the other half
Border irregularity: Normal moles are round or oval. The borders of a melanoma may be uneven or notched
Color: Common moles are usually only one color. Melanomas have several colors or an irregular pattern of colors.
Diameter: Common moles are usually less than ¼ inch in diameter. Melanomas may be ¼ inch but are often larger.
In addition, when you’re planning to spend a substantial amount of time in the sun, practicing sun safety is essential to ensuring skin health:
- If possible, avoid extensive sun exposure between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Seek shaded spots
- Wear sunglasses with 99% – 100% UV absorption
- Be sure to protect your skin even on cloudy days, as UV rays travel through clouds
- Remember to SLIP (on a shirt), SLAP (on a hat) and SLOP (on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher)
- Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen frequently, especially after swimming
For more information about this free program or to RSVP, please call 1-800-8-COOPER (800-826-6737).