May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the Plainville-Southington Health District encourages residents to protect themselves from ultraviolet radiation all year round, not just during the summer.
A news release from the district said skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The American Cancer Foundation estimates nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the United States each year.
“Most skin cancers can be prevented when sun protection measures are consistently used,” said Shane Lockwood, PSHD Director of Health in the press release. “Individuals should check themselves regularly for new growths or other changes in the skin. Any changes should be reported immediately to your doctor.”
There are three major types of skin cancer, the release said: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, commonly known as nonmelanoma skin cancer, are highly curable but can cause skin damage and disfigurement if they are left untreated. When detected and treated early, more than 95% of these carcinomas can be cured.
Malignant melanoma is more serious and can result in death if untreated. Melanoma may suddenly appear without warning and can spread rapidly to other organs. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma will account for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015.
Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays appears to be the most important environmental factor in developing skin cancer. Apply sun protective practices consistently.
“Everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer, regardless of one’s skin complexion,” said Lockwood in the press release.
Building safe sun habits into your daily routine is easier than one would think. Simple and effective protection practices are:
Dress appropriately, wear long sleeve shirt, pants, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Avoid being in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the strongest.
Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater on all exposed skin, and apply at least 20 minutes before going outside.
Use sunscreen that protects for UVA and UVB.
Reapply sunscreen after swimming, perspiring heavily, or drying skin with a towel.
Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
Avoid indoor tanning
For more information on skin cancer prevention visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.