Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so it’s not a surprise that skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer, with about 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer diagnosed in the United States each year. These cancers in the outer layer of your skin occur most where your skin is exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, neck, lips and the backs of your hands.
Melanoma, a more dangerous type of skin cancer that begins in the cells that make pigment, will account for about 73,000 new cases this year.
You can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer by protecting your skin from overexposure to ultraviolet rays, which are emitted by the sun but also by tanning beds and sunlamps.
The American Cancer Society notes the best way to avoid overexposure to harmful rays is to stay in the shade. But when you know you will be in the sun, it suggests you “Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap:”
- Slip on a shirt
- Slop on sunscreen
- Slap on a hat
- Wrap on sunglasses
You should also monitor for changes in your skin, such as: raised, reddish patches; open sores; pink growths with raises edges, sometimes with a lower area in the center; flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar; small pink or red translucent, shiny bumps; or changes in the size, shape or color of a mole.
If you find something like these, or have concerns about your exposure, see your health care provider as soon as possible. If your provider suspects you may have developed a skin cancer, she may take a skin biopsy to study the affected area under a microscope. This may lead to additional tests and treatment.
Enjoy your summer, but take precautions to avoid overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. And if you notice anything unusual on your skin, see your provider.