With skin cancer being the most common cancer in the world, it is no surprise that every year, the month of May is set aside globally for Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
Although skin cancer may be common, the majority of cases are preventable. Read on to learn more about what skin cancer is, how to prevent it, symptoms to look out for, and how you can save lives by raising awareness.
What is Skin Cancer, and What Are the Skin Cancer Stats?
Skin cancer is described as an abnormal growth of skin cells, and there are two types: melanoma skin cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer. Melanoma, although less common, is a deadlier type of skin cancer, as it has the ability to spread deeper into the skin, as well as to other organs if not treated in the early stages. Non-melanoma skin cancer, on the other hand, is a more common type of skin cancer that develops slowly in the upper layers of the skin and is less likely to spread to other parts of the body.
The incidents of melanoma skin cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer have increased over the past few decades, with between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occurring globally each year. Alarmingly, one in every three cancers is diagnosed as skin cancer.
Just in the US alone, more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. In fact, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. It is the most common form of cancer both worldwide and in the United States, with 1 in 5 Americans developing cancer by the age of 70.
However, despite these staggering statistics, there is still hope. Most skin cancer is preventable, as the majority of cases are caused by too much exposure to UV radiation from being out in the sun or tanning in sunbeds. By raising awareness of skin cancer and educating people about it, we are able to help save people's lives through prevention.
What Are Skin Cancer Symptoms, and What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?
Skin cancer can look like anything from a large mole to a scaly, inflamed patch of skin, depending on the type. However, you should alert your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
Melanoma Skin Cancer:
- In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and have more than one color
- The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes bleed or get itchy
- a mole that gradually changes shape, size or color
- A scab or sore that doesn’t heal
- A crusty or scaly patch of skin that appears red or inflamed
- A pearly, flesh-colored lump that doesn’t go away and is growing in size
- A scabby lump on the skin that keeps getting bigger
- A growth with a pearly rim that surrounds a central crater
What Are Some Skin Cancer Treatment Options?
Skin cancer treatment is determined by your doctor based on factors unique to your case such as the type of skin cancer, where it is, how fast it has grown or spread, and the stage of the cancer. However, the most common type of treatment that is used for skin cancer is surgery. Other treatment options include immunotherapy cream, chemotherapy cream, radiotherapy, and photodynamic therapy.
5 Ways to Raise Awareness and Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer
1. Participate in Skin Cancer Awareness Events
One of the best ways to raise awareness during Skin Cancer Awareness month is to participate in the many events that will be taking place in May. From fundraising events to education classes on skin cancer, there are many ways that you can help raise awareness and prevent cases of skin cancer.
2. Learn About Your Family History and Risk of Skin Cancer
Although the main cause of skin cancer is too much sun exposure or tanning, there are other factors that contribute to having a higher risk such as family history, being fair-skinned, age, a compromised immune system, having had skin cancer previously, certain skin conditions, etc. It is important that you ask your family about these things so that you are aware if you have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
3. Regularly Examine Yourself for Skin Cancer and See a Doctor
It is always better to be safe than sorry, so it is important that you consistently examine your skin for any skin irregularities that could be signs of skin cancer. You can quickly and easily do this by checking your body when you take a shower or during your skincare routine. If you see any suspicious spots or moles, take pictures of them so that you can track changes in size, shape, and color over time. If at any point you are concerned that you could have skin cancer, you should immediately see a doctor that can examine the area and perform a biopsy to determine whether it is cancerous or not.
4. Educate Yourself and Others About Skin Cancer
Especially because most cases of skin cancer are preventable, education is essential to help save lives. Educate yourself, as well as others, on the commonality of skin cancer, the risks, how to best take care of your skin, and how to protect yourself from skin cancer. The more people are made aware of skin cancer, the more people will be cautious when out in the sun.
5. Practice Skin Care Prevention: Take Proper Care of Your Skin
With the skin being the body’s largest organ, it is absolutely essential that you take proper care of it in order to live a long and healthy life. This means protecting your skin from harmful UV radiation from the sun. Make sure to always apply sunscreen when you go outside, regardless of whether you burn easily or not. Just because you may not burn easily, it doesn’t change the fact that you are being exposed to harmful UV radiation out in the sun. You can also protect your skin by wearing hats that offer coverage, sunglasses, and cover-ups. There are even “rash guard” bathing suits that you can wear to further protect yourself from the sun. Remember that although there are people more susceptible to developing skin cancer, it can happen to anyone. Be safe out there.