I recently addressed sun exposure for faking a tan ( Fake ‘n’ Bake ), but this time I’d like to talk about a much more serious aspect of excessive sun exposure: Melanoma.
According to the American Melanoma Foundation, the incidence of melanoma found in Americans’ skin has been increasing for the past 30 years- for caucasians, the annual increase of melanoma diagnosis is 3.1%. Every year, another 3.1% of non-hispanic whites are diagnosed- and even more disturbing, Asian American and African American melanoma patients have a greater tendency than caucasians to present with advanced disease at time of diagnosis (Provided by The Skin Cancer Foundation). Melanoma is dangerous for people of ALL SKIN TYPES- I cannot stress this enough. Just because you have darker skin, does not mean you are protected from the harmful rays of the sun; in fact, and as you’ve just read, people with darker skin are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with malignant melanoma- simply because they could not recognize the warning signs of their skin cancer due to the pigment of their natural skin tone and the location in which their melanoma was discovered (on palms, the soles of the feet, mucous membranes and nail regions).
More than 2 million cases of skin caner are diagnoses annually in the United States alone, and it is estimated by both the American Melanoma Foundation and The Skin Cancer Foundation that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. With each sunburn you acquire, your risk of developing skin cancer goes up. With this in mind you should always apply sun screen before heading out into the sun, and re-apply during the day even when it’s “not that sunny” outside. Re-application is usually skipped, but it is another very important part of protecting yourself from sun burns and worse. Re-application should be done at the bare minimum of once every hour, and if you are wearing a lighter SPF, such as SPF15, you should reapply every 15 minutes. Re-application prevents the loss of protection by covering areas that were previously covered but may have been rubbed clean or have been sweated off. What’s so shocking about this type of cancer is that more and more it is becoming a disease of young adults. The most common form of cancer for young adults between the ages of 25 and 29 years old is Melanoma, and Melanoma is the SECOND most common form of cancer found in adolescents!
If you still think a burn here and there won’t be a problem, think about this: every hour someone dies from Melanoma- 8,650 deaths this year will be attributed to excessive sun exposure causing melanoma.
Everyone should be concerned with protecting their skin from sun damage, but there are some groups at higher risk for skin cancer:
- If you have fair completion or light skin
- If you have more than 50 visible moles on your body
- If you have atypical, or strangely shaped/coloured moles
- If you have a family history of melanoma or skin cancer
- If you have had a serious sunburn more than 2 times in your life
These at risk groups should be checked with a full body exam annually by a doctor. If you do not fall into the ‘higher risk’ category you should still perform self-checks monthly to become familiar with your skin, and catch a potential problem before it becomes a malignancy. Also, The American Cancer Society recommends a skin cancer-related checkup as part of any periodic health examination for men and women beginning at age 20.
Please watch this video produced by DCMF.
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