By Amy Haynes, American Cancer Society
May is Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection Month and it is by far the most common cancer in the U.S. There are three types of skin cancer, basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Melanoma is a less common but a much more dangerous type of skin cancer. It is estimated that more than 76,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2016, an estimated 820 new melanoma cases are expected in Kansas and an estimated 1,610 new cases are expected in Missouri. About 100 Kansans and 230 Missourians will die from melanoma this year.
Who is at Risk?
Men are about twice as likely as women to have basal cell cancers and about three times as likely to have squamous cell cancers of the skin. Before age 45, the risk of melanoma is higher for women; after the age 45, the risk is higher in men. People with excessive exposure to light from tanning lamps, booths or sunlight are at greater risk for skin cancer. If a person has had severe, blistering sunburns, particularly in their childhood or teenage years, they also have an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
Many of the more than 3.5 million skin cancer cases that are diagnosed annually could be prevented by protecting skin from excessive sun exposure and avoiding indoor tanning. Nearly all skin cancers could be prevented by limiting unprotected exposure to the sun. The American Cancer Society recommends that you slip on a shirt, use 30 SPF (or higher) broad-spectrum sunscreen, and wear a hat and sunglasses before any exposure to the sun. When skin cancers do occur, most can be treated successfully if detected early, even melanoma.
Skin examinations can be part of routine check-ups. Everyone should know their own pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles and other marks on the skin so they can notice changes during monthly self-exams.
Key warning signs of non-melanoma skin cancers are new growth, a spot that is getting larger, or a visible sore that does not heal within three months. For melanoma, the most important warning sign is a change in size, shape, or color of a mole or signs that its border is becoming more ragged. Other symptoms include scaliness, bleeding, or change in the appearance of a bump or nodule; the spread of pigmentation beyond its border; or a change in sensation, itchiness, tenderness, or pain.
Skin Cancer Research
As of August 2015, the American Cancer Society is funding 63 reach and training grants addressing skin cancer, totaling more than $20 million. Each year, skin cancer rates continue to rise. Research to discover the most effective ways to prevent and treat all types of skin cancer remains a priority for ACS.
In light of the strong scientific evidence that the UV exposure from indoor tanning increases risk for skin cancer, the Kansas Legislature is considering establishing a law that would prevent anyone under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning devices, like tanning beds. Currently, Kansas is one of just 7 states with no restrictions on indoor tanning. The legislation was passed by the full Kansas House of Representatives in March. If the Senate takes action to pass the bill in May, the bill could become law. Learn more about this legislation at www.acscan.org/KS.
To learn more about skin cancer, skin protection and how to detect skin cancer, please visit www.cancer.org. Share your support for skin cancer awareness via social media on May 2, National Melanoma Monday, and May 27, National Don’t Fry Day. It is your skin, wear it well!
Support Skin Cancer Awareness:
May 2 – National Melanoma Monday
May 27 – National Don’t Fry Day