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Skin cancer is preventable: learn how to reduce your risk

April 29, 2019

About 1 in 54 People Will Develop Skin Cancer

While the rates of cancer diagnoses and deaths continue to decline, the number of new cases and deaths is going up – the result of a growing, aging population.

About 1 in 54 people will develop melanoma (skin cancer) in their lifetime. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 192,310 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019, and invasive melanoma is projected to be the fifth most common cancer for both men and men this year.

Risk Factors for Developing Skin Cancer

May is National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. As the weather warms and we spend more time outdoors, it is important to be aware of skin cancer risks and prevention.

Among the many risk factors for melanoma are fair skin and freckles, light hair, and eye color including blond or red hair and blue eyes. People who have a large number of ordinary moles and abnormal moles should look for changes in them, such as growing in size, changing color, or having irregular borders.

Also look for warts and other blemishes on the skin, especially those parts exposed to the sun. People with a family history or who have already experienced a non-melanoma skin cancer are also at higher risk.

Skin Cancer is Highly Curable When Detected Early

Melanoma is the third most common skin cancer, and the type that causes the highest number of deaths. Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
When detected early by your primary care provider or during recommended monthly self-exams, skin cancers are highly curable. Check your skin from head to toe for any new or changing lesions (abnormalities).

Skin Cancer Prevention Tips

Dr. Richard Arenas and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following to protect you and those you love from deadly UV radiation:
Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.

  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

“Remember that all it takes is just a few blistering sunburns in our childhood to more than double our chances of developing a potentially deadly melanoma later in life. In fact, for a while now we have seen many more patients, especially women in their 20s and 30s, coming into our practice with melanoma and basal cell cancers,” said Dr. Arenas.

Learn more about skin cancer prevention and treatment from the Baystate Regional Cancer Program.