Summer Sun Safety Month
During the summer months we find ourselves outdoors, and Comprehensive Cancer Centers reminds everyone that it’s important to always keep your skin safe amid the harsh summer sun.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, more than 200,000 cases of skin cancer and melanoma are diagnosed each year. Locally, according to the American Cancer Society, nearly 840 Nevadans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year.
At Comprehensive Cancer Centers, we hope you never have to visit one of our facilities due to cancer, especially skin cancer. However, we know certain factors may put people at higher risk for getting melanoma, such as age, fair skin and family history, so it’s important to remember that anyone can get it.
It’s also important to remember that with such a high number of reported cases each year, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. When this type of cancer is so preventable, why is it still so common, particularly locally?
The answer boils down to a person’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either via the sun or artificial sources such as tanning beds. UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, especially where the UV index can easily reach extreme levels in the summer, like here in Southern Nevada. Increased exposure over time can, and will, increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
Skin pigmentation and ability to tan is another important consideration. Most people know from experience whether they burn easily every time they go out into the sun. Others burn then tan. Some tan easily and seldom burn. The need to limit sun exposure to prevent sun damage relates to frequency of sunburns, especially early in life. Protecting children from sunburns, therefore, is a high priority to prevent skin cancers.
If you and your family practice all the right ways to protect your skin when you go outside, you will significantly decrease your risk of getting skin cancer.
Stay Safe and Recognize the ABCDEs of Melanoma
Protection from UV rays is important not only during the summer, but all year round. Before 9 a.m. and after 7 p.m. are good times for outdoor activity, as there is very little UV light that penetrates the atmosphere. Harmful UV rays peak in the middle of the day.
While enjoying time in the midday sun, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Wear wide brimmed hats, sunglasses and long-sleeve shirts to protect your skin
- Remember to reapply sunscreen to your feet, lips, hands and under straps
- Ball caps do not protect your ears, back of the neck or side of the face
- Clouds do not reduce UV rays
- A sunburn is actually a burn and can permanently damage your skin
- Use sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher regularly and reapply frequently
Additionally, it’s important to recognize the patterns of any marks on your skin, including moles and freckles, and check them once a month. At home, you can use the ABCDE method:
- Asymmetry — one half of the mole does not match the other half
- Border irregularity — the edges of the mole are ragged or notched
- Color — the color of the mole is not the same all over
- Diameter — the mole is wider than a quarter-inch
- Evolution — changes over time (This is the single most important feature!)
The ABCDE method can help distinguish between a regular mole and melanoma, but if there is a mark that is of concern, it’s best to consult with your doctor.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Skin Cancer
If you have a new growth on your skin, a sore that doesn’t heal or a change in an old growth, it’s time to see a doctor. If cancer is suspected, your physician may perform a skin biopsy of the affected area, and additional testing may be needed to determine if it has spread to other parts of the body, which could lead to a referral to a Comprehensive Cancer Centers oncologist.
Treatments are different for types and stages of cancer, but there are a range of options available that can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Skin cancer is generally very treatable, especially when diagnosed early. Early detection and screenings can be a matter of saving your life, and you can even do an at-home screening before seeing a doctor.
Skin Cancer Death Rates Are Dropping
At the beginning of 2020, the American Cancer Society announced that cancer death rates had recently dropped 2.2 percent, marking the largest single-year drop ever. The large decline, utilizing data from 2016 to 2017, is due to a drop in skin and lung cancer deaths, and is a reminder that we are continuing to improve as research grows. Amid stable to decreasing death rates, the incidence rate of melanoma and skin cancer is increasing, with new melanoma cases alone increasing 47 percent nationally from 2010 to 2020, according to the American Cancer Society.
Comprehensive is continuing to work with its various partners to promote skin safety and offer free sunscreen in community spaces. The practice’s recent partners include American Cancer Society, Clark County Parks and Recreation (more than 50 locations throughout Southern Nevada), City of Las Vegas, Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada, Springs Preserve, Downtown Summerlin, Cowabunga Bay, Cadence master planned community, Las Vegas Aviators, PENTA Building Group, UNLV, Vegas Golden Knights and Las Vegas Lights.
In the coming years, with effective skin safety education and implementation, we can work together to achieve an even more significant drop in skin cancer diagnoses and deaths. By adhering to preventative measures and staying skin smart, you can prevent ever having to step foot in one of our clinics with a skin-related illness.
Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help
Physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada provide a variety of treatment options for skin cancer including: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and clinical research. To schedule an appointment with the team at Comprehensive, please call 702-952-3350.
The content is this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.