Skin Cancer Awareness: Preventing Sun Damage
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If you're making plans for the Memorial Day Weekend, they might inolve the pool, the beach, or just your own backyard. But getting outdoors and enjoying some good weather brings with it the risk of sun damage.
Of the 7 most common cancers in the UInited States, skin cancer - in particular melanoma - is the only one with an increasing incidence rate. That's a grim statistic when more than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed every year.
There are proven ways to reduce your risk, and doctors say you be taking these measures very seriously.
A dermatologist at Gainesville Dermatology and Skin Surgery, Miranda Whitmer speaks to patients all the time about the importance of preventing sun damage to their skin.
"Any amount of sun leads to sun damage," Witmer says, "which can lead to skin cancer overtime, in addition to that sun damage which is unsightly and leads to discoloration."
Other than spots, wrinkles, and premature aging, sun damage leading to skin cancer is a very real possibility. If current trends continue, 1 in 5 Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that the best way to try and prevent skin cancer is to limit your exposure to ultraviolet or UV light from both the sun and tanning beds - considered a known carcinogen by the FDA, and banned outright in some other countries!
While the information is out there, people don't seem to be listening. According to the CDC, only 58% of adults engage in some kind of sun- protective behavior, and more than one-third of the US population says they've had a sunburn in the past year.
Whitmer saysprotecting yourself its as easy as choosing a good sunscreen.
"You generally want to choose something that is 30 [SPF] or higher to give you good coverage, you also want to look for something that is broad-spectrum," she says, "which means that it blocks both type of UV rays that damage our skin; that includes UVA and UVB."
And you have to use enough: 2 ounces for your whole body, and then reapply - even if you're wearing clothing.
"A typical white shirt only gives you a sun protection factor of about three," Whitmer explains, "so a good rule of thumb is if you can hold your shirt up to the light and see the light through it, that's what the sun can also do to you."
It's also important to regularly screen for any incidence of skin cancer, and to identify your own risk factors by seeing a dermatologist.
Whitmer uses the ABCDE method to determine if any abnormalities on your skin merit extra attention.
A stands for asymmetry, look at more determined one side looks like the other, she says. B stands for irregular borders; those are more worrisome. C stands for color; if you have more than one color or very dark color that can be worrisome. D stands for diameter; a mole that is larger than 6 mm or about the size of a pencil eraser can mean bad news. Finally E stands for evolution; any changes occurring over time with the mole also need to be evaluated, she says.
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