Let There Be Light, But Not Too Much: Experts Weigh in on Skin Cancer

We came. We tan. We burned…often because we ignored scientific warnings about the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) light.

As a result, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, and the number is growing, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Every year, about 5 million people seek medical treatment for skin cancer, adding about $8 billion to the country’s health care bill and costing $100 million in productivity losses.

It is estimated that an estimated 207,000 cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, will be diagnosed this year and about 7,000 people will die from it, the AAD reports.

Past sunburns, routine exposure to UV rays and intentional tanning behaviors fuel the spike in cases, according to health experts such as Dr. Jennifer Chambers, chief medical officer at Capital Blue Cross.

“There is a generation of people who didn’t use sunscreen as children or adolescents,” she said. “Years ago, it was not uncommon for children to get one or more sunburns every summer. The impact of sun blistering as a young person may not show up until much later in life.”

On average, people’s risk of melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns, reports the British Journal of Dermatology. According to The Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology, a sun blister in childhood or adolescence more than doubles the chance of developing melanoma later in life.

“Lifeguards, farmers, landscapers, construction workers and others who earn their living outdoors are routinely exposed on both sunny and cloudy days,” Chambers said.

Much to the chagrin of skin experts, many people intentionally increase exposure to UV light on beaches, patios, swimming pools, rooftops and indoor tanning booths.

“While some people think a tan gives them a healthy glow, any tan is a sign of skin damage,” said Sharon Miller, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist and international expert on UV rays and tanning. .

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the AAD, and several other organizations say employers and individuals can reduce the risk of skin cancer by:

Use of tents, shelters and cooling stations in workplaces. Create work schedules that minimize sun exposure. Rotating workers to reduce UV exposure. Incorporating sun safety information into corporate wellness programs. Wearing protective clothing and sunglasses with UV protection. Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Select clothing with a UV Protection Factor (UPF) number on the label. Avoiding tanning beds.

Watch your skin. About half of all melanomas are found through self-examination, the AAD says. The “ABCDE Rule” describes the early warning signs of melanoma:

ASymmetry – One half of a skin mole does not match the other half.
BOrder irregularity – The edges of a mole are ragged, notched, or blurry.
Color – Moles have irregular pigmentation or a mottled appearance.
NSiameter – Melanomas usually measure 6mm in diameter.
EVolving – The mole looks different from the rest or changes size, shape, or color over time.

If you find any irregularities, Chambers suggests seeing a board-certified dermatologist.

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