Longer days, warmer temperatures and the knowledge that the official start of summer isn’t that far off means most of us are looking forward to spending more time in the sun.
But before you hit the road, we ask that you take a moment to stop and think about the toll all those ultraviolet rays can take on your skin and health. It’s especially important at this time of year and the reason why May has been designated National Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
The Skin Cancer Foundation reminds us that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. More than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, and more than two people die from the disease every hour. About 20 percent of Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they are 70 years old, according to the foundation. It is expected that 186,680 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed by 2023 and the cost of treatment will be $8.1 billion.
Unfortunately, an estimated 7,990 people will die from skin cancer this year – 5,420 men and 2,570 women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the age-adjusted incidence of melanoma of the skin per 100,000 people in the United States in 2019 was 22. In our region, that number was 26.7 for Ohio. West Virginia checks in at 21.8, while Pennsylvania is at 20.1.
Broken down further, between 2015 and 2019, the percentage in Jefferson County was 24. It was 28.7 in Harrison County, 24.3 in Belmont County, 22.7 in Columbiana County, and 21.4 in Carroll County. The rates in West Virginia’s Hancock and Brooke counties are 19.2 and 16.7, respectively, while in Pennsylvania they are 21.4 percent in Allegheny County, 17.6 percent in Beaver County, and 17.7 percent in Washington County.
Figures from the foundation show that your risk of developing skin cancer more than doubles if you’ve had five or more sunburns in your life, and that a person will be exposed to the sun for more than 80 percent of their life by the time he is 18.
While everyone should be careful, it’s critical to keep babies, children, and teens safe. That’s sometimes easier said than done — nearly 60 percent of high school students have suffered a sunburn in the past year, according to the National Institutes of Health. Girls fall into this category more often than boys.
To minimize your exposure, stay indoors or seek shade in the middle of the day, especially between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest. When you must be outside, cover your skin with long-sleeved shirts, long pants, wide-brimmed hats, and always wear sunglasses. When going outside, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 to all exposed skin. Apply the sunscreen for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30, before going out into the sun.
These rules apply even on a cloudy day. Remember, it’s not the light that damages the skin, it’s the ultraviolet rays that will still be there.
Avoid tanning beds and consult a dermatologist if you notice any changes in your skin.
Those numbers may paint a bleak picture, but it’s not all bad — the survival rate for a person diagnosed with melanoma early is about 99 percent, with that number dropping sharply for those who delay treatment or whose cancer develops later in life. stages is diagnosed.
Enjoy the sunshine we’re sure to experience during the summer months – and don’t forget to take precautions to avoid the chance of you – or anyone in your family – getting skin cancer.