By: Dr. Karen Kade, Dermatology
“How can you reduce your risk of getting skin cancer?”
In Miami, it’s hard to evade the sun – especially in the summer. The chronic sun exposure can severely damage the skin and cause skin cancer, which accounts for half of all newly diagnosed cancers.
Fortunately, death from skin cancer is rare, but considerable damage may result. The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented and is readily detectable, treatable and curable.
We used to blame only Ultraviolet-B rays, the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn that damages the superficial layer of skin, for skin damage. We have now learned that Ultraviolet-A rays, which accounts for 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth, affect the skin on a deeper level and account for many of the changes we associate with getting older. In fact, most of the changes usually attributed to aging, like “old” looking skin, eye damage, and skin cancers, are due to extrinsic causes – primarily sun exposure.
Ninety percent of all skin cancers occur on parts of the body that are unprotected by clothing. We see that many skin cancer patients are farmers, boaters, fisherman and sunbathers and those with fair complexions, red or blond hair, and blue eyes are particularly at risk. When exposed to the sun, make sure your skin is covered or protected. One helpful way to protect your skin, in addition to sunscreen, is to wear special, sun-protective clothing.
Only one-fourth of melanoma patients are aged 39 or younger, so it’s especially important if you are over the age of 40 to see a dermatologist to get a baseline full body check. Afterwards, follow-up and take the proper steps to care for your skin.
TOP 5 SUN FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- 1. Seventy percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays penetrate cloud-cover on overcast days.
- 2. One out of every 6 Americans will get skin cancer in his/her lifetime – one out of 75 will develop melanoma.
- 3. The majority of moles appear before age 20. Greater sun exposure increases the amount of moles developed and increases the risk for melanoma.
- 4. Older white men have the highest mortality from melanoma. Basal cell skin cancer affects men twice as often as women. Squamous cell cancer affects men three times as often as women.
- 5. Two or more severe childhood sunburns double a child’s chances of developing melanoma as an adult.
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