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May is Melanoma Awareness Month

May 4, 2012

I was born in a time when it was acceptable to lie in the sun, slathered with baby oil. A time where we visited tanning booths for months to be the perfect shade of bronze for prom.

Now many Americans are paying the price.

May is skin cancer awareness month.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Nearly 13 million Americans have a history of non-melanoma skin cancer and 800,000 have a history of melanoma. Over the past 40 years, rates of melanoma grew by 800 percent among women ages 18 to 39 and 400 percent among young men ages 18 to 39. Sixty-five percent of melanoma cases are due to exposure of UV rays from the sun.

Unlike many types of cancer, skin cancer can be preventable. Lifestyles can be changed to lessen the risk of this deadly disease. To reduce your risk of skin cancer, protect yourself with these tips.

  • Stay in the Shade. The sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Seek the shade during these hours.
  • Do Not Burn. The risk for melanoma doubles if you have had 5 or more sunburns during your lifetime.
  • Avoid Tanning Booths. Even if you only visit a tanning booth 4 times a year, your risk for melanoma increases by 11 percent and 15 percent for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common forms of skin cancer.
  • Cover Up! Wear clothing, wide-brimmed hats, UV-blocking sunglasses to cover as much skin as possible.
  • Use Sunscreen. Wear broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with 15 SPF or higher every day.
  • Apply & Reapply. Put 2 tablespoons of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep Babies Out of the Sun. One severe sunburn during childhood doubles the risk of developing melanoma later in life. Sunscreen can only be used on babies who are 6 months old and older. Never take babies younger than 6 months out in the sun.
  • Perform Monthly Examines. Complete a head-to-toe self exam every month; consult a physician if a mole has changed or looks suspicious.
  • See a Doctor Yearly. Visit a professional for a full skin exam every year.

Source: Skin Cancer Foundation

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