Dermatologists urge Americans to “practice safe sun” to reduce their risk for skin cancer
Skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet new data shows Americans aren’t “practicing safe sun.” In a recent survey, the American Academy of Dermatology found only half of Americans always or almost always protect themselves from the sun when they’re outside—increasing their risk for skin cancer, including melanoma.
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It’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, later in life.
“Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day,” said board-certified dermatologist George J. Hruza, MD, MBA, FAAD, president of the AAD. “Exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, and there are many simple things you can do to protect yourself from the sun.”
Dr. Hruza recommends practicing safe sun with a variety of protection methods any time someone is outdoors, including:
- Seeking shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Wearing protective clothing, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
- Applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin that clothing won’t cover. Remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
“It’s also important to remember to protect parts of your body you think might not be getting any sun,” said Dr. Hruza. “Areas like the tops of your hands, bottoms of your feet or the part in your hair may not immediately come to mind when it comes to sun protection, but they are still vulnerable to dangerous sun damage.”
Because skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early, Dr. Hruza also recommends performing regular skin self-exams and looking out for the
ABCDEs – the warning signs of melanoma:
- A is for Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
- B is for Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
- C is for Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red or blue.
- D is for Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters — or about the size of a pencil eraser — when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- E is for Evolving: The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
“If you find any new or suspicious spots on your skin, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist,” said Dr. Hruza. “Spots that are changing, itching or bleeding could be a sign of skin cancer, and the earlier skin cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.”
To learn more about skin cancer prevention and detection and to find a free skin cancer screening near you, visit DoYouUseProtection.org.