Skin Cancer - A Major Health Problem
Most people like to get a little sun. Its warmth and light can relax us and boost our spirits. But the benefits come with a dangerous risk of developing skin cancer. The statistics on skin cancer are pretty daunting:
- Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime.
- More than 3.5 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are diagnosed in more than 2 million people in the United States every year.
- It is estimated that 137,310 new cases of melanoma, 63,440 noninvasive (in situ) and 73,870 invasive, will be diagnosed this year.
- It is estimated that one in 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime.
- Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.
- The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the U.S. is estimated at $8.1 billion—about $4.8 billion for non-melanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma.
The good news in all of this is that skin cancers, if caught early, are highly treatable.Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of skin cancer, are highly curable if detected early and treated properly. The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent.
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
Some common factors that may increase your risk of skin cancer include:
- Fair skin - anyone, regardless of skin color, can get skin cancer
- A history of sunburns
- Excessive sun exposure
- Sunny or high-altitude climates
- Precancerous skin lesions
- A family history of skin cancer
- A personal history of skin cancer
- A weakened immune system
- Exposure to radiation
- Exposure to certain substances such as arsenic
Tips for Preventing Skin Cancer
- Seek the shade on warm days between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm
- Avoid getting sunburned
- Avoid the use of tanning beds and UV tanning booths
- Cover up with clothing, including broad brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day
As tempting as it may be to “soak up some sun,” it is a good idea to do this in moderation and take the proper precautions to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.