Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? Each year, more than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed. There are more new cases of skin cancer than cancers of the breast, colon, prostate and lung combined.
One in five Americans will develop a skin cancer during their lifetime, and the number of skin cancers is rising rapidly. The good news is that it is the easiest to cure if diagnosed and treated early. If skin cancer is allowed to progress, it can result in disfigurement - and even death.
Anyone can get skin cancer, however, there are certain characteristics that may put you at an increased risk. Sun and indoor tanning are the leading causes of skin cancer.
You are more likely to develop skin cancer if you spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun or use tanning beds or sun lamps. If you live, or have lived, in an area that gets intense sunlight such as Florida, the Caribbean or northern Australia you are at an increased risk.
You may be at an increased risk for skin cancer if you have or have had any of the following:
Prevention and Early Detection
Protect your skin from the sun! Avoid sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are most intense. Wear tightly woven clothing, sunglasses and a hat to protect your skin and apply sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15. If you are in the water or participating in outdoor activities, remember to reapply sunscreen frequently.
Make sure that children are protected from the sun; severe sunburns in childhood increase their risk of melanoma later in life.
Avoid sunbathing and indoor tanning!
It is strongly recommended that everyone practice monthly head-to-toe self-examination of their skin. This will enable you to become familiar with your skin and note any new or changing lesions or moles that might be suspicious. You can visit skincancer.org for a downloadable body self-examination form. Complete the form when you perform a self-examination of your skin and bring it with you when you see your dermatologist.
If you see something that concerns you, mark it on the form and bring to your dermatologist. Be aware of anything that lasts for two weeks or longer and is growing, changing shape, bleeding or itching. These could be signs of skin cancer. If caught early and removed, skin cancer has a high cure rate.
See a dermatologist at least once a year for a full body examination. This is especially important living in South Florida. Discuss your risk factors with your doctor to determine if you should be seen more frequently.