Skin Cancer Information

Skin cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in the skin cells. According to the latest statistics available from the American Cancer Society and the CDC:

  • More than 2 million Americans will be diagnosed in 2013 with nonmelanoma skin cancer, and about 76,690 will be diagnosed with melanoma.
  • Although exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is said to be the most important factor in the cause of skin cancers, only a little over half of American adults use sun-protection measures.
  • Most skin cancers appear in older people, but skin damage from the sun begins at an early age. Therefore, protection should start in childhood to prevent skin cancer later in life.

In addition, consider the following statistics from the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of cancer worldwide.
  • Melanoma incidence rates are 10 times higher for whites than for African-Americans. People with dark-pigmented skin can develop melanoma, particularly on the palms of the hands, on the soles of the feet, under the nails, and inside the mouth.
  • Melanoma accounts for less than 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.

Skin Cancer Prevention

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends the following steps to help reduce your risk of skin cancer:

  • Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Seek the shade when appropriate, especially when the sun’s rays are the strongest, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Regularly use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher on all exposed skin, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Protect children from the sun by using shade, protective clothing, and applying sunscreen.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand, which can reflect the sun’s rays and increase the chances of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds. The UV (ultraviolet) light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.
  • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. Look at your skin carefully and if you see anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see your doctor.
  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet (which may include vitamin supplements.) Don’t seek out the sun.

The American Academy of Pediatrics approves of the use of sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months old only if adequate clothing and shade are not available. Parents should still try to avoid sun exposure and dress the infant in lightweight clothing that covers most surface areas of skin. However, parents also may apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to the infant’s face and back of the hands.
Remember, sand and pavement reflect UV rays even under an umbrella. Snow is a particularly good reflector of UV rays.