In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May, here are 31 facts — one per day — to provide some vital information and bust a few myths about the most widespread, yet most preventable, of all cancers.
1. More people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer than with any other type of cancer, according to a 2018 report
by the American Cancer Society. About one in every five Americans
will develop some form of it during their lifetime.
2. The most deadly skin cancer, melanoma, causes one death every hour in the U.S. But if detected early, while it’s still local, it may be cured.
3. The most common types of skin cancers
are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. The vast majority of cases — about eight out of 10 — are basal cell cancer. Squamous cell cancer is more capable of spreading to other organs, though this is rare.
4. Skin cancer, including melanoma, is most often caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation
from the sun, as well as artificial sources such as indoor tanning.
6. Try to avoid the sun’s harmful effects during its peak hours
, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during standard time and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during daylight savings time, by utilizing sunscreen and sun protection.
7. By employing skin protection year round you may be able to reverse some of the damage that is already there.
9. Americans tend to have more sun damage on the left side of their face than the right, according to the Skin Care Foundation
. This is due to UV exposure while driving, even with the windows closed, since UV rays can pass through glass.
10. To protect yourself from sun streaming through glass, use a sunscreen in the car or near windows indoors. You can also coat the windows in your car or home with a UV-protective film.
11. Do you need sun protection on a cool or cloudy day? Absolutely, says the CDC
. Low temperatures and clouds do not protect you from UV rays.
12. Be aware of reflected sunlight from surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow. Those UV rays can also damage your skin.
13. The sun protection factor (SPF
) tells you how much longer you can stay in the sun without reddening than if you didn’t use sunscreen. For example, if your unprotected skin is affected after two minutes in the sun, SPF 30 means you can stay in the sun 30 times longer, or about an hour.
14. No matter what the SPF is, you must reapply sunscreen at least every two hours
because no sunscreen will last longer than that. Reapply a lot more often if you’re perspiring, and immediately after you swim or towel dry.
16. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn, but UVA
rays are more prevalent and penetrate more deeply into the skin.
18. UV rays can easily penetrate a white T-shirt, more so if it’s wet. Dark, tightly woven fabrics are better. Some hats and clothing have a UPF
(ultraviolet protection factor) rating. A UPF of at least 25 blocks about 96 percent of the sun’s rays.
20. Though more often found in older people, skin cancer can appear at any age. Even in children
, suspicious moles should be checked by a doctor.
22. That “healthy looking” tan isn’t healthy. Tanned skin is damaged skin, and a “base tan” will not protect you from the sun.
24. Indoor tanning devices are just as dangerous as the sun. The International Agency for Research on Cancer
has classified UV radiation from tanning beds as a Class I carcinogen, in the same category as plutonium, radon and nicotine.
25. More people develop skin cancer from indoor tanning than get lung cancer from smoking, according to a study in JAMA Dermatology.
26. Intraocular melanoma
can develop in the eye, most often in the uvea where melanocytes — pigment-making cells — are found. Always wear sunglasses with full-spectrum UV protection. Wraparounds offer even more protection.
27. Skin cancer sometimes occurs in areas with little UV exposure such as the soles, palms, scalp, nail beds and the inside of the mouth.
28. Dark-skinned people
are far less likely to get skin cancer than fair-skinned people — but it can be more dangerous because it often escapes early detection. Reggae icon Bob Marley
mistook melanoma on his toe for a soccer injury and died from it when he was just 36.
29. Other types of skin cancer
, though rare, include Merkel cell carcinoma, skin lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma, skin cancer from sweat glands (adnexal) and soft tissue (sarcomas).
30. Catching precancerous skin damage can help you avoid cancer. The most common form is actinic keratosis
, and it should be treated as soon as possible.
31. Most skin cancers are first detected by patients
, not doctors. Do a complete self-examination of your skin every month. When you notice anything suspicious, see a dermatologist right away. And if you have a history of skin cancer, get a full mole check at least once a year