Skin cancer threat demands awareness

Throughout the month of May, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) promotes skin cancer awareness and the importance of protection from ultraviolet (UV) exposure. The Skin Cancer Foundation reported that skin cancer is the most common of all cancers in the United States, with over 5.4 million cases a year, signaling that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

This year’s theme for skin cancer awareness month is “Do you use protection?” The AAD is using this theme to get its message across that no matter the age, race, or gender, protection from the sun is necessary for everyone.

According to the AAD, the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer is UV exposure, so it is important people “practice safe sun” when going outdoors. The idea of “practicing safe sun” includes wearing protective clothing, seeking shade, and using sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 30+; when swimming, it is vital to use water-resistant sunscreen. The National Cancer Institute notes that the skin is the body’s largest organ, so it is important to protect it like any other organs.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, malignant tumors form when damage to skin cells causes the cells to multiple rapidly. Most often the damage to skin cells comes from ultraviolet radiation. The Skin Cancer Foundation said types of skin cancers and precancers include actinic keratosis, atypical moles, basal cell carcinoma, melanoma, merkel cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma. The Mayo Clinic noted the three major types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly head-to-toe self-examinations in search of any new or changing lesions on the skin. When spotted, it is important to see a dermatologist because early detection increases the chances for a cure.

UV radiation does not only come from the sun, but also from tanning beds. The Skin Cancer Foundation reported that over 419,000 cases of skin cancer each year have a direct correlation to tanning beds. An interesting fact is that “more people develop skin cancer because of indoor tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Skin cancer symptoms often begin as spots, moles, or lesions that appear on skin and cause pain, burning, or itching, according to the Mayo Clinic. If any sections of skin look irregular or changes are noticeable, one should visit a medical professional.

Stevenson sophomore Isabella Maxey has seen skin cancer affect a loved one in her life. “It is hard to watch someone important to you go through something that was somewhat avoidable. Something as simple as sunscreen or wearing more clothes can really make a difference, but people take those things for granted,” Maxey said.

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