So it’s the month of May and a lot of us are already thinking about spending time outside to enjoy everything that the sun has to offer. Summer is almost here, which means planning many outdoor excursions at the beach and attending many poolside parties with friends. But our skin pays the price for the enjoyment we get from blue, cloudless skies; and unfortunately, it’s the UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun that do all of the damage. But how is that possible? How is having nice, tanned skin a bad thing – doesn’t it enhance one’s appearance? Well, even though tanned skin is found appealing to some, the reality is that the darker the skin gets, the more it’s damaged from ultraviolet radiation, and this could cause skin cancer.
Skin Cancer: The Three Most Common
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are types of skin cancer that are common and can be treated effectively; but then there is malignant melanoma, which out the three is more serious and can be difficult to treat in its later stages.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma: This is the most common type of skin cancer in the United States; and even though it accounts for more than 90% of all skin cancer in the country, it hardly ever metastasizes to other parts of the body. Those with light colored skin and who are constantly or infrequently exposed to the sun are at risk. Basal cell carcinoma can affect parts of the body that are often exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, ears, scalp, shoulders and back.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This is the second most common type of skin cancer that occurs in the U.S. and affects millions. Lighter skin individuals are at risk, however, it can also occur in those with dark skin. Constant sun exposure is a major reason why individuals get squamous cell carcinoma; and even though it can affect similar parts of the body as basal cell carcinoma, it can also occur in the esophagus, lungs, bladder, prostate, penis and vagina.
- Melanoma: As the most serious and challenging type of skin cancer to treat, this type of skin cancer is responsible for more than 75% of skin cancer related deaths. Anyone who’s exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can be at risk; especially those with fair or freckled skin, have a great amount of moles on the body or large mole since birth, have experienced intense sun bathing, have had blistering sunburns, have blue or green eyes, or red and blond hair, and have a history of melanoma in the family. If not treated right away, melanoma can be dangerous and fatal because it can spread to other parts of the body that are hard to treat such as the lympth nodes, lungs, liver, bones and brain.
Take Preventative Measures
- Protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
- When outside, avoid the sun as much as possible by seeking shelter under shaded areas.
- Wear hats that protect the face and neck area.
- Wear dark clothing to help absorb UV rays.
- Wear clothes that cover your skin.
- Apply sunscreen (SPF of 15 or higher) on sunny and overcast days (UV rays can penetrate clouds).
- Make sure to apply sunscreen on all parts of the body, especially those that are often ignored (feet, hands, ears, lips, neck, and scalp).
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps – they can also damage the skin and cause skin cancer.
- Wear sunglasses with a wrap around design that offer UVA and UVB protection.
- Check your body for moles or irregular mole-like appearances. Don’t neglect your feet (check between toes) or other hard to see areas of your body since these mole-like appearances can form anywhere. If you need help, ask a friend or a loved one for assistance.
- Visit your health care professional if you find or suspect mole-like appearance on your body.