Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Get Your Sunscreen On!

skin cancer melanoma awarenessIt’s Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Many of us will recall our childhood days in the summer; your mother smothered you with sunscreen, and ordered that you wear a hat and T-shirt to swim in, it may have seemed laughable at the time - The stigma may have remained for some, but her fussing may have prevented you from developing skin cancer later in life.

A recent article regarding skin cancer awareness went viral on the internet of a woman in her late 20’s, she posted several pictures of herself with terrible skin cancer sores across her face and body. Her teenage years were spent tanning, using tanning beds and not protecting her skin from the sun.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma (a rare type of skin cancer) accounts for 132,000 of global cases, annually. Although rare, it is the most aggressive form of skin cancer able to metastasize and ensue further damage. Skin cancer is almost completely preventable by an individual, by avoiding prolonged time in the sun (especially between 11am-3pm) and tanning beds. Yet many dismiss wearing sunscreen, either they are stigmatized (most men believe it to be ‘too feminine’) or others believing that their dark complexion will provide them protection from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Many also would rather tan and avoid applying sunscreen or use tanning beds. Those using tanning beds have a staggering 74% risk of developing melanoma compared to people who do not tan. There are unavoidable risk factors of developing skin cancer - living in close proximity to the equator, a family history of skin cancer or a weakened immune system.

Melanoma originates within the melanocytes (responsible for the skin pigment, melanin). Melanin controls the darkness (or lightness) of your skin, fair-toned people have little melanin and vice versa for dark-toned people. While sunscreen offers some UV protection, it is not entirely foolproof.

Skin Cancer Awareness – Prevention and Early Detection

Early detection is key to successful treatment of melanoma - Check your moles (with the ABCDE rule), but also be aware that there are other subtypes of melanoma that can occur, even in the eyes. Educate your children on the dangers of prolonged sun exposure and tanning beds.

If skin cancer does not scare you enough, prolonged exposure and unprotected skin in the sun can later result in having wrinkles and skin discoloration later in life. However, UVB radiation from the sun produces the essential vitamin D for the body’s processes, a few minutes (fair-tone skin) to over an hour (dark-tone skin) of daily sun exposure is enough – this is of course dependent on your skin type, the time, season and location - not prolonged periods of sun exposure. It is important to note, to avoid getting sunburns – especially continuously, as this increases your risk of developing melanoma significantly.

Get your skin checked by our dermatologists at HMC!

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