With the return of the late spring and summer sun, and many of us headed off on vacation, it is time to think about skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 3.5 million skin cancers in more than 2 million people diagnosed annually. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer.
About one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during his or her lifetime, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon, the foundation reported.
The foundation notes that the incidence of many common cancers is falling. But the cases of melanoma continue to rise at an alarming rate, even with the warnings posted by the medical profession. In fact, the incidence of melanoma is increasing at a rate faster than that of any of the seven most common cancers, according to the foundation.
Melanoma accounts for about 3 percent of skin cancer cases, but it accounts for more than 75 percent of skin cancer deaths, the foundation reported.
The survival rate for persons diagnosed early with melanoma is about 99 percent. But the survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced stages of the disease.
Studies have shown that a person gets about 80 percent of lifetime sun exposure by age 18. Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer for young adults 15 to 29 years old. Reports indicate that one blistering sunburn during childhood can more than double a person's chances of developing melanoma later in their life.
It is important to remember some safety tips to avoid sunburn and limiting exposure to the harmful affects of the sun's ultraviolet radiation.
Since most of a lifetime exposure to the sun comes early in life, it is important to protect infants and children and teenagers from blistering sunburns.
The most obvious way to protect yourself from harmful UV radiation is to stay out of the sun. Stay indoors or find shade in the middle of the day when UV radiation is strongest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Plan outdoor activities for the early morning or late afternoon, when UV radiation is typically one-third of what it is at midday.
Another protection if you are out in the sun is to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 on all exposed skin. Apply the sunscreen at least 15 minutes, preferably 30 minutes, before heading out in the sun.
Also, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends to check your birthday suit on your birthday. Seek a dermatologist's help if you notice any changes in your skin.
Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.