On Your Health

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Understanding Skin Cancer

20 June 2016

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Americans spend nearly all our time indoors. On average, we’re outside for one hour, 40 minutes every day. While that doesn’t seem like much, add those hours and minutes up through the years, and all that sunlight takes a toll on the health of our skin.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America. There are four major types of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

  • Basal cell carcinoma. This type is the most common form of skin cancer. The small, skin-colored bumps appear most often on the head, neck and arms.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma. This type is the second most common form of skin cancer. Red bumps or scaly patches appear on parts of the body that are frequently exposed to sun, like the face or the tops of the ears.
  • Actinic keratosis. This type looks like dry, scaly patches of skin that appear after years of sun exposure. It’s a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Melanoma. This type is the deadliest. It often appears as dark, asymmetrical moles. Diagnosis and treatment should happen as soon as possible.

Oklahoma has one of the lowest rates of melanoma in the country, but it has one of the highest death rates from the condition. The survival rate for melanoma could increase if we all took precautions, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Know the warning signs of melanoma, and take the time to check your skin regularly. If you suspect something, see your doctor immediately.

Steps You Can Take

Most skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet radiation. UV exposure is greatest in the United States between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The best way to reduce your risk of skin cancer is to protect yourself from UV radiation as much as possible, especially if you plan to be outside during those hours.

Do things like stay in the shade, wear a hat and sunglasses, use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher and avoid indoor tanning. Make sure to use extra caution near water, snow and sand because they reflect sun rays and can increase your chance of sunburn.

Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours to get the best protection.

Information about skin cancer