Get real about skin cancer

by Dawn Huffman

Mille Lacs Health System

Warmer weather is finally arriving. Being outdoors in the sun is great after being cooped indoors most of the winter. But, sun exposure on skin that is not protected is very risky.

The best prevention of skin cancer is protecting the skin whenever it is exposed to sunlight. Sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 is essential to protect the skin. Each application should consist of 1 ounce (a full shot glass) of sunscreen. It should be re-applied after being in the water or sweating. Even if the sunscreen says it’s water resistant, it should be re-applied every two hours.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and on average, one American dies from melanoma every hour. It’s the most common cancer in the United States. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of a person’s age or ethnicity. In fact, people with skin of color are prone to skin cancer in areas that aren’t commonly exposed to the sun, like the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and inside the mouth. Even getting one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double anyone’s chance of developing melanoma.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests avoiding being in direct sunlight between the hours of ten and two, alternating your time in the sun with time in the shade, and always wearing sunscreen. Also, you should wear sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim to protect your face and eyes. It’s important to remember that your skin is getting double exposure when you are on the water, sand, concrete and even snow as all reflect the damaging rays of the sun.

Stay away from tanning beds. Indoor tanning increases your risk for skin cancer by 67%. People who first use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75%.

Mille Lacs Health System cares about you and your health. Be sure to check your skin regularly. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, contact your healthcare provider. Early detection of skin cancer can increase your survival rate to 98%.