State health officials are reminding Hoosiers to take steps to protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet rays as part of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May.
“Hoosiers should protect their skin all year long, but summer presents additional dangers as people spend more time outdoors,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “Remembering that there is no such thing as a safe tan and understanding how to limit your risks can greatly reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.”
According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma, which accounts for only about 1 percent of skin cancer cases, causes a large majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Indiana saw 1,248 newly diagnosed cases of melanoma from 2011-2015 and an average of 209 melanoma-related deaths per year.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common forms of non-melanoma skin cancer, are less deadly but have increased in prevalence.
Risk factors for skin cancer include a history of sunburn or tanning bed use, a family history of skin cancer, and having fair skin, light-colored eyes or blonde or red hair. Age and gender also can contribute to a person’s risk. Seventy-seven percent of melanoma cases in Indiana from 2011 to 2015 occurred in Hoosiers age 50 or older, and men were more likely to develop the cancer than women.
As summer approaches, Hoosiers are urged to practice the following sun safety tips:
- Check the Environmental Protection Agency’s UV Index if you will be spending time outdoors. The higher the index number, the greater the risk of sunburn and skin damage. The index can be found at https://www.epa.gov/sunsafety/uv-index-1.
- Seek shade, especially during midday.
- Cover exposed skin with protective clothing.
- Shade the face, head, ears and neck with a wide-brimmed hat.
- Wear sunglasses that provide as close to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection as possible.
- Wear sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection for both UVA and UVB rays and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater for longer periods of sun exposure.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
- Avoid the use of tanning beds and sunlamps.
Keep children younger than six months old out of direct sunlight and dress them in protective clothing. Teach children about the dangers of tanning beds and sun exposure and the importance of wearing sunscreen whenever outdoors.
The best way to detect skin cancer early is to check skin regularly for the appearance of new growths or moles or changes in existing ones. Follow the ABCDE rule:
- A = Asymmetry: One half of a mole or lesion does not match the other half.
- B = Border irregularity: The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C = Color: Pigmentation is not uniform, with variable degrees of tan, brown, or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
- D = Diameter: The diameter is greater than 6 millimeters, or about the size of a pencil eraser, although melanomas can sometimes be smaller.
- E = Evolution: Existing moles change shape, size or color over time. Any sudden increase in the size of an existing mole should be checked.
“Skin cancer can appear differently from one person to the next, so it is important to consult a healthcare provider any time you notice changes in moles or skin growths,” Dr. Adams said.
For more information on skin cancer and how to prevent it, refer to the Indiana Cancer Facts and Figures 2015 report, a comprehensive report on the burden of cancer in Indiana.
Anyone interested in reducing the burden of cancer in Indiana is encouraged to consider participating in the Indiana Cancer Consortium, a statewide network of partnerships that works to address cancer from prevention through end of life. Learn more at http://www.IndianaCancer.org.
Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at http://www.StateHealth.in.gov for important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/isdh1.