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Skin cancer prevention

on Tuesday, 14 May 2019. Posted in Columns, Opinions

By: William M. Mingus, III

With over 5 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. By raising awareness of the dangers of unprotected exposure and encouraging sun-safe habits, we can change behaviors and save lives. With the incidence of this disease reaching epidemic levels, we can’t do this work alone. We need your help. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to get involved.

Melanoma- The most dangerous form of skin cancer, these cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. These tumors originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease.

An estimated 192,310 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019. Of those, 95,830 cases will be in situ (noninvasive), confined to the epidermis (the top layer of skin), and 69,480 cases will be invasive, penetrating the epidermis into the skin’s second layer (the dermis).

If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. While it is not the most common of the skin cancers, it causes the most deaths. An estimated 7,230 people will die of melanoma in 2019. Of those, 4,740 will be men and 2,490 will be women.

Since its inception in 1979, The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher as one important part of a complete sun protection regimen. Sunscreen alone is not enough, however. Here are some other tips to protect your skin.

• Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.

• Don’t get sunburned.

• Avoid tanning, and never use UV tanning beds.

• Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

• Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

• Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.

• Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.

• Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.

• See a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.

With the summer coming, be cautious about your time in the sun.

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