National Melanoma Skin Cancer Awareness Month, observed during the month of May, is a time to raise awareness of skin cancers, encourage prevention and early detection through self-exams. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, on average, one American dies from melanoma every hour. In 2015, it is estimated that 9,940 deaths will be attributed to melanoma – 6,640 men and 3,300 women. Melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults age 25 to 29, and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults age 15 to 29. When caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable. The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent.
The Skin Cancer Foundation attributes approximately 86 percent of melanomas to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Melanoma accounts for six percent of cancer cases in teens 15 to 19 years old. Prevention is key. The following guidelines should be followed:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Try to avoid burning.
- Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
For more information, contact the Baptist Health Floyd Cancer Center of Indiana at (812) 945-4000.