Most Americans aren’t using sun protection as often as they should be —increasing their risk for skin cancer, including melanoma.
In fact, just half of Americans always or almost always protect themselves from the sun when they’re outside, according to a new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology.
In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May and Melanoma Monday on May 6, the AAD is asking Americans, “Do you use protection?” and encouraging the public to “practice safe sun” to protect themselves from skin cancer, which is the most common cancer in the United States. It’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, later in life.
“Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day,” says board-certified dermatologist George J. Hruza, MD, MBA, FAAD, president of the AAD, in a news release. “Exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, and there are many simple things you can do to protect yourself from the sun.”
Dr. Hruza recommends practicing safe sun with a variety of protection methods any time someone is outdoors, including:
- Seeking shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Wearing protective clothing, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
- Applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin that clothing won’t cover. Remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
“It’s also important to remember to protect parts of your body you think might not be getting any sun,” says Dr. Hruza. “Areas like the tops of your hands, bottoms of your feet or the part in your hair may not immediately come to mind when it comes to sun protection, but they are still vulnerable to dangerous sun damage.”
Because skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early, Dr. Hruza also recommends performing regular skin self-exams and looking out for the ABCDEs – the warning signs of melanoma:
A is for Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
B is for Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C is for Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red or blue.
D is for Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters — or about the size of a pencil eraser — when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
E is for Evolving: The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
“If you find any new or suspicious spots on your skin, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist,” says Dr. Hruza. “Spots that are changing, itching or bleeding could be a sign of skin cancer, and the earlier skin cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.”
To encourage the public to “practice safe sun” and reduce their risk of skin cancer, the AAD released a new video, “Do You Use Protection?”, in conjunction with Skin Cancer Awareness Month. No matter your age, gender or race, the video reminds Americans about the importance of protecting their skin whenever they’re outdoors.
To learn more about skin cancer prevention and detection and to find a free skin cancer screening near you, visit DoYouUseProtection.org.
The public can help raise awareness of skin cancer by using the hashtag #PracticeSafeSun when sharing AAD resources, photos of how they “use protection” outdoors, or encouraging friends and family to take advantage of the AAD’s free skin cancer screenings. Individuals who have been affected by skin cancer can also share their personal stories on SpotSkinCancer.org to provide support and inspiration for others fighting skin cancer and communicate the importance of skin cancer prevention and early detection.