COLUMBIA, Mo. — With Memorial Day weekend marking the beginning of summer, most people will be planning outdoor activities to enjoy the sunny three-day weather. But with exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun comes the risk of skin cancer.
To raise awareness and prevention of the dangers of overexposure to ultraviolet rays, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated Friday, May 22, as “Don’t Fry Day.”
“Many people believe skin cancer occurs after a lifetime of exposure, yet melanoma is the second most common form of cancer for young adults 15 to 29 years of age,” said Karen Edison, M.D., chair of the Department of Dermatology at University of Missouri Health Care and medical director of the Missouri Telehealth Network. “In the last 30 years, the number of women under the age of 40 who have been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma has more than doubled, while the squamous cell carcinoma rate has also increased significantly.”
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers in the United States. More people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. Whether from the sun or an artificial light source, ultraviolet radiation is a carcinogen.
“Any change in your skin, whether burned or slightly tanned, is a sign of UV damage,” said Edison. “The good news is that you can protect yourself and your family members from skin cancer’s main cause.”
Skin cancer is one of the few preventable forms of cancer. Edison suggests using the acronym AWARE as a tool in remembering some easy prevention tips.
- Avoid unprotected UV exposure by seeking shaded areas when possible.
- Wear sun protective clothing such as broad-rimmed hats and sun glasses.
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or greater 20 minutes before sun exposure.
- Routinely check your whole body for changes to your skin.
- Educate your family about sun protection.
“In the same way we teach our kids to wear bike helmets, we can also teach them to utilize UV safety gear such as wide-brimmed hats and to use appropriate sunscreens to protect them,” said Edison. “And this education will have life-long effects.”
Because skin cancer is easily recognizable, it is also important to self examine to diagnose the condition as soon as possible for the best outcome.
“Persistent spots on the skin that were not there before are things to look out for,” said Edison. “If the spot has an irregular shape, grows or changes color, it is time to see your doctor to verify if the affected area is in fact cancerous.”