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Prevention

Skin Cancer Facts

  • More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than 2 million people are diagnosed in the United States annually.
  • It is estimated that there will be about 131,810 new cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, in 2012 – 55,560 noninvasive (in situ) and 76,250 invasive (44,250 men and 32,000 women).
  • Current estimates are that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
  • By 2015, it is estimated that 1 in 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime.
  • Melanoma incidence rates have been increasing for at least 30 years.
  • Since 2004, incidence rates of melanoma among whites have been increasing by almost 3% per year in both men and women.
  • Caucasians and men over 50 are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population.
  • Melanoma incidence rates in Caucasians are 5 times higher than in Hispanics and 20 times higher than in African Americans.
  • Although before age 40, melanoma incidence rates are higher in women than in men, after 40, rates are almost twice as high in men as in women.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.
  • Melanoma is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than males in the same age group.

Since exposure to ultraviolet light is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers2, the American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to protect their skin by applying sunscreen, seeking shade and wearing protective clothing.

Warning signs of melanoma include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or other skin lesion, or the appearance of a new growth on the skin.

Individuals with a history of melanoma should have a full-body exam by a board-certified dermatologist at least annually and perform regular self-exams for new and changing moles.

SKIN CANCER SELF-EXAMINATION

The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to perform periodic skin self-examinations of the entire body and receive a physician skin examination. Since each person’s risk of skin cancer differs based on his or her skin type, sun exposure, and family history, a dermatologist can make individual recommendations about how often a person should be screened for skin cancer.

Individuals with a history of melanoma should have a full-body exam at least annually and perform monthly self-exams for new and changing moles

Checking your skin means taking note of all the spots on your body, from moles to freckles to age spots. Remember, some moles are black, red, or even blue. If you see a new spot or notice something changing, itching or bleeding on your skin, immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers.

Here is what you can do:

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all skin not covered by clothing. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.
  • Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand because they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product or spray, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

These risk factors significantly increase your risk of getting melanoma:
  • Sun exposure: Have you spent a lot of time outdoors without protecting yourself from the sun? Have you had bad sunburns, especially blistering sunburns?
  • Light skin: Do you have fair skin? Although melanoma is more common in people who have light skin, people with skin of color also get melanoma.
  • Family history: Have any of your first-degree relatives (parent, sibling, or child) had melanoma?
  • Moles: Do you have more than 50 moles? Has a dermatologist told you that you have atypical moles?
  • Previous melanoma: Have you had melanoma? This greatly increases your risk of getting another melanoma.