The incidence of skin cancer in the US continues to grow. According to a recent study published in the Archives of Dermatology, more than two million Americans are affected by over 3.5 million skin cancers every year. This represents more than a 300 percent increase in total skin cancers since 1994, the last time such data were released.
Skin cancer is truly an epidemic, with more new cases annually than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon. While it is usually very treatable when caught early, it should not be taken lightly. Skin cancers have a high rate of recurrence, and anyone who has had one runs an increased risk of developing another skin cancer, including melanoma. Additionally, people who have had nonmelanoma skin cancers have twice the risk of developing other malignancies, such as lung, colon, and breast cancers. Melanoma, if not caught in a timely manner, may metastasize (spread) to distant tissues or organs, and can be life-threatening.
Even though skin cancers are becoming more and more common, you need not become a statistic. Skin cancer remains one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Since approximately 90 percent of all nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, you can lower your risk by limiting your exposure to the sun and tanning devices, which also emit harmful UV rays. Sun protection behaviors such as seeking the shade (particularly between 10 AM and 4 PM); wearing protective clothing; and applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher regularly are important all year round, but now that the weather has warmed up and we’re spending more time outdoors, precautions are especially vital.
Enjoy the spring, and visit our Prevention Guidelines section for more information on how to best protect your skin from UV-induced damage.