Why Give Wednesday: Skin Cancer Awareness Month
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and with summer vacation and beach trips on the horizon, many of us will be spending more time in the sun than usual. This is a fun-filled time for everyone, but this also means we need to pay more attention to avoiding sun overexposure so we prevent skin cancer as much as we can.
First of all, what is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a disease where malignant (cancerous) cells grow in the tissue of the skin. One in every five Americans will develop skin cancer, which equals more than those diagnosed with breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined. The three most common types of skin cancer are:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma is most common form of skin cancer and grows slowly, usually on the head, neck or torso. This type of skin cancer is unlikely to spread to other parts of your body and, if detected early, is the least risky. It usually appears raised, waxy pink bumps.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma affects parts of the skin that are exposed to heavy UV rays. It can spread to the tissues, bones and near lymph nodes if left undetected, but does so slowly. It appears as red, scaly, and rough skin lesions.
- Melanoma is the fastest growing, most aggressive and most deadly type of skin cancer. It can spread to many parts of the body, including the bones and brain. If this happens, the disease becomes nearly incurable.It appears as moles that are irregular in shape, color, diameter and/or border.
How can you prevent skin cancer?
About 90 percent of skin cancer cases are associated with overexposure to the sun, so it is important to protect yourself from UV rays all year long—not just in the spring and summer. “Everyone should wear sunscreen all year round, even on cold, cloudy days,” says Marian Northington, M.D., director of UAB Cosmetic Dermatology. “Unless use of a flashlight is necessary to see, you should have sunscreen on.” UAB experts suggest everyone use a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum and water resistant every single day (For more sunscreen guidelines, click here.) You can wear a hat or other clothing that covers skin or seek shady areas to avoid excessive exposure to skin, too.
The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is involved in many new and innovative trials studying the most effective ways of treating and preventing skin cancer. A recent example of skin cancer research that the center is involved with is developing a morning-after cream to be applied after extended exposure to sunlight which would the damage caused by the sun. The center also handles thousands skin cancer cases each year and provides the most advanced services and facilities for its treatment.