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Reducing your risk

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation, five million people are treated for skin cancer annually; in the last 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than every other type of cancer combined; one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime; 13 million Americans are living with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer; and over 800,000 Americans are melanoma survivors, the most detrimental form of skin cancer.

A study reported in Pediatrics found the rate of melanoma is on the rise among adolescents through age 20, with pediatric melanoma steadily increasing by 2% each year from 1973-2009. With all the knowledge consumers have at their disposal, why are the instances of cancer still on the rise? The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that skin cancer is a lifestyle disease, meaning there is much we can do to prevent a skin cancer diagnosis.

Ways to reduce your skin cancer risk

1. Remain indoors or in the shade during the hours of 10am-4pm, when the sun’s harmful rays are at their strongest. If your shadow is shorter than you are, UV rays are more intense.

2. Avoid sunburn at all costs. Five or more sunburns in a lifetime can double the risk of melanoma. Just one severe burn as a child could double an adult’s likelihood of developing melanoma later in life. Children six months and older can tolerate sunscreen, but should still remain out of the sun and protected by shade or clothing. Newborns should never be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time.

3. Tanning booths are not a safe alternative to the sun. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in July of 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that UV tanning beds or booths emit more UV radiation than previously thought. In fact, artificial tanning beds were elevated into the highest cancer risk category: “carcinogenic to humans.” The FDA also suggests that using tanning beds more than once per month can increase your risk of developing melanoma by 55%.

4. One full ounce, or two tablespoons, of sunscreen should be applied to all sun exposed areas at least 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply another full ounce to all exposed areas every two hours and after excessive sweating or swimming. Be sure the sunscreen product is broad spectrum, meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays. Using an SPF of 30 is adequate when applied as directed. All PCA SKIN sunscreen products offer broad spectrum coverage and have been given The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.

5. Seek out a board-certified dermatologist for yearly skin exams. Take the time to do self-exams once per month. Early detection can save your life and can minimize intense medical intervention like surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.