The Skin Cancer Epidemic

The Skin Cancer Epidemic

The most common form of cancer in Caucasians is skin cancer.  In fact, in the United States, there are more skin cancers diagnosed than all other cancers combined.  Approximately 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in our country.  One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70!

In 2012, there were 5.4 million skin cancers treated in the U.S.  Within this large group, there are two main classifications of skin cancer: nonmelanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, others) and melanoma skin cancer.   There has been a 77% increase in nonmelanoma skin cancer between 1994 and 2014.  There has been a 53% increase in the number of new melanoma cases between 2008 and 2018.

Since the vast majority of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet light, sun protection is the main defense against developing skin cancer.  A sun protection plan should include physical blockers, sunscreen, and sun sense.

Physical blockers such as sun protective clothing (like Uvida Sportswear), hats with at least a 4 inch brim, sunglasses and umbrellas are the preferred method of protection since they work as long as they are used.  Long-sleeved sun protective clothing blocks sun all day long without any decrease in effectiveness and without effort on the part of the user.

Suncreens are also an important part of a sun protection plan and should be used to cover any area not shielded with a physical blocker.  Sunscreens should be applied 30 min prior to sun exposure and should be reapplied every two hours while outside.  This is where most users have a problem.  They forget to reapply.  Sunscreen degrades, sweats off, rubs off and for those reasons drops in effectiveness over the first two hours.  Start by using a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB light.  Use the highest SPF that you don’t mind wearing.

Sun sense is using common sense to avoid the sun from hitting your skin.  Seek shade whenever possible.  Stand under a tree, or in the shadow of a building when you can.  Limit time in mid-day sun drastically.  Instead, plan outdoor activities very early in the day as the sun is rising or at the end of the day, just before sunset.  That way your ultraviolet exposure will be minimized.

Utilizing all of these sun protective measures mentioned above will help to decrease your risk of skin cancer.  Skin cancer is preventable and its never too late to start.  This is your best chance to minimize your risk of becoming another statistic in the skin cancer epidemic.

Michael J. Huether, M.D.


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