In 2010, there were 1,926 cases and 282 deaths in Michigan associated with melanoma, the most dangerous and deadliest form of skin cancer. In order to reduce these numbers, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is encouraging residents to take some simple steps to lower their risk of skin cancer, especially during the summer months.
“Here in Michigan, I frequently see patients with skin cancer, and that’s a shame because it is a largely preventable condition,” says Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive with the MDCH. “Be sure to limit direct exposure to the sun for everyone between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and remember that adults and children should put on sunscreen frequently to stay safe from the sun’s rays. It’s important that adults protect themselves and teach their children healthy habits to reduce the risk of skin cancer.”
Michigan residents are encouraged to seek shade, especially in the middle of the day, and cover up with clothing to protect as much skin as possible. Be sure to apply sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat, and wear sunglasses. Sunscreen doesn’t protect the skin from all ultraviolet or UV rays, so it is not encouraged to use sunscreen as a way to stay out in the sun longer. Protect your skin even on cloudy or overcast days because UV rays also travel through clouds. Avoid other sources of UV light as well, including tanning beds and sun lamps.
Risk factors for non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers include:
· Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (sunlight or tanning beds).
· Pale skin (easily sunburned; doesn’t tan much or at all; natural red or blond hair).
· Occupational exposures to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds, or radium.
· Family or personal history of skin cancers.
· Multiple or unusual moles.
· Severe sunburns in the past.
Skin cancer can be found early, and both doctors and patients play important roles in finding skin cancer. If you have any of the following symptoms, tell your physician:
· Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color).
· Scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way a bump or nodule looks.
· The spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark.
· A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain.
For more information about skin cancer prevention, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/sunanduvexposure/skin-cancer-facts.