News from Illinois CancerCare

Protect The Skin You’re In

As we recognize National Cancer Survivor Month and celebrate the great strides being made in helping people live longer, we really need to talk about skin cancer.

Summer memories are made at the ballpark, beach and your own back yard. But no matter where you spend your time during these carefree months, it’s important to protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun. Why? Because more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF).1

Dangerous Lesions

Melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer and accounts for 5% of new skin cancers in women and 7% of new cases in men. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that melanoma could be reduced with proper sun protection, it’s estimated that we’ll see a 7.7% increase in melanoma cases during 2019.

That being said, the number of melanoma deaths is expected to decrease this year. In addition to being diligent about sun protection, one of the best ways to prevent melanoma from growing to a dangerous stage is to know your skin.

Keep an eye on existing moles – as well as new spots that have appeared – and get an annual screening by a dermatologist. It’s important to have a family member check areas that you can’t see for yourself including the back of your neck, scalp or other sneaky places that melanoma can hide.

Nonmelanoma Notes

The most common type of cancer is basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which is a nonmelanoma. The second most common is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is also a nonmelanoma. Although these types of skin cancer are more common, they are typically less deadly.

Interestingly enough, people who have had organ transplants are about 100 times more likely than the general public to develop SCC, so these individuals should be extra diligent about sun protection and awareness of any changes to their skin.

Say It Again

We realize that most people have heard messages about skin cancer many times before, but because you have the power to significantly reduce your risk of exposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation, we believe it’s important to reiterate these reminders:

  • Use the correct SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor.
  • The American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD) recommends an SPF of at least 30 for your skin.2
  • The AAD also suggests a lip balm with a 15+ SPF rating.
  • Apply sunscreen indoors 15 minutes before heading outside so your skin has time to absorb the product.
  • An average adult needs about 1 ounce (the size of a shot glass) to properly cover their body; use a spray or ask someone to help apply product to difficult-to-reach areas.
  • Reapply every two hours under normal conditions; also put more sunscreen on after swimming or sweating.
  • Don’t forget to protect your scalp by wearing a hat, as well as the back of your neck which tends to get a lot of exposure.
  • If you spend a lot of time driving, it’s smart to put sunscreen on the arm closest to the window.
  • Take responsibility for ensuring that children are protected with sunscreen, hats and consider rash guards for even greater protection. Always make sure their little feet and ears are protected, too.
  • Avoid indoor tanning beds. A sun-kissed glow isn’t worth getting wrinkles or skin cancer.

Safety First

You may have recently heard that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is questioning the safety of sunscreen. However, there’s no need for alarm.

The FDA is simply requesting additional safety information regarding how your skin absorbs the ingredients and what, if any, effects those ingredients have on your skin or body. The AAD website does a great job of explaining what this means.

In addition, the FDA has put out the following statement, “Given the recognized public health benefits of sunscreen use, Americans should continue to use sunscreen and other sun protective measures as this important rulemaking effort moves forward.”

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, while we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Month, we encourage you to take the time to put on an ounce of skin protection.