Skin cancer: how to protect ourselves from the sun

Spring and summer are exciting seasons and during this time of year sun exposure increases resulting in an increased risk of skin damage, including the development of skin cancer.

What causes skin cancer?

Most of them are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which come from the sun or artificial sources of exposure such as tanning beds and sunlamps.

These artificial sources of UV rays can damage skin cells.

The good news?

Most skin cancers are preventable.

According to the American Cancer Society, this is the most common cancer in the United States, with 5.4 million basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers and more than 76,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed each year.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing about 10,000 Americans each year, nearly 75% of all skin cancer deaths in the United States.

What is skin cancer?

It is the abnormal growth of skin cells as a result of overexposure to the sun and harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

While the most frequent cases occur on the most exposed skin, well-covered areas of the body can also be affected.

All pigmentations, dark and light, are subject to skin cancer.

What common forms does skin cancer take?

It can take many forms, but the three most common are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma,
  • Squamous cell carcinoma,
  • Melanoma.

Beginning in the basal cells in the outer layer of the skin, basal cell carcinomas can appear as a pearly or waxy bump, as well as a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion.

Squamous cell carcinoma: this type forms in squamous cells.

Signs are often a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusty surface.

Melanoma: a small fraction of skin cancers, but also the most deadly. Symptoms of melanoma include: a large brown spot with smaller darker ones or a mole that changes color, size or bleeds.

Who is most at risk for skin cancer?

Anyone can get this disease, but the risk is higher for those who:

  • Experience heavy UV exposure.
  • Have lighter skin.
  • Are in a family history of skin cancer.
  • Have prevalent moles.
  • Experience numerous severe sunburns in the past.
  • Have a weakened immune system.
  • Live in sunny or high-altitude climates.

Practice sun safety

It is important to protect yourself from UV rays year-round, not just during the summer.

In the continental United States, UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during daylight saving time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time).

Recommendations for protection

  • Use sunscreen, at least sun protection factor (SPF) 30, year-round.
  • Apply sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating.
  • Stay in the shade.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Get a hat to cover your face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that cover the sides of your face and block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sun protective clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50+, which blocks 98% of the sun’s rays. Wide-brimmed hats and sun-protective clothing that covers the arms and legs are helpful in protecting the skin from harmful UV rays. Sunscreen does not block all UV rays that cause skin cancer.
  • Check your skin. If you notice differences, talk to your health care team.

Enjoy as the warm days arrive, but always keep skin cancer prevention in mind.

Any change in your natural skin color, such as tanning, burning or freckling, is dangerous to your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer.

For this reason, it is important to contact your health care team if you have concerns about skin abnormalities.

This disease is treatable when detected in its early stages.

Visit our table and see the tour of our Sun Protection van, where you will find more information to prevent skin cancer.


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