Summer is here and that means people will be spending more time at outside. While it feels good to catch some rays, it is always important to watch your exposure to the sun. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, one-in-five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It typically develops on sun-exposed areas of the body and tends to grow slowly. While it’s rare for basal cell skin cancer to spread to other parts of the body, if left untreated it can grow into nearby areas and invade the bone or other tissues beneath the skin.
Squamous cell carcinomas are second in line. These cancers commonly appear on sun-exposed areas of the body but can also develop in scars or chronic skin sores elsewhere. Squamous cell cancers are more likely to grow into deeper layers of skin and spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma is the most aggressive and deadly type of skin cancer. It is most often attributed to ultraviolet radiation exposure from natural or man-made sources. While it accounts for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, it does cause the majority of skin cancer deaths. The rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 30 years. The American Cancer Society’s estimates that in 2017 more than 87,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed and nearly 10,000 people are expected to die of melanoma.
Fortunately melanoma, as with any form of skin cancer, is often curable if caught in its very early stages. In addition to regular self-examinations, there are several ways to lower your risk of skin cancer, such as:
- Limiting your exposure to the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Using broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Apply 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours.
- Covering up with clothing, a hat, and sunglasses with UV protection.
- Avoiding tanning beds and sun lamps.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends performing monthly head-to-toe self-examinations of your skin to look for any changes. If anything seems suspicious, see a doctor.
Naomi Lawrence, MD
Head, Division of Dermatology Section of Procedural Dermatology
Cooper University Health Care