By Ms. Patricia Beal (Army Medicine)May 16, 2019
WOMACK ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The good news? Most cases are preventable.
As schools close and pools open for the summer months, you can have fun and prevent skin cancer too.
"Skin cancer is the one cancer we can actually protect you from," said Maj. Melissa Scorza, the officer in charge of the Womack Army Medical Center Dermatology Clinic. "Use your sunblock."
How much sunblock? A shot glass.
"That's a lot. That's not just a little bit that you're spreading on," said Scorza. "That's honestly why I like sun protective clothing because I'm inevitably going to miss an area. And even on my children--they're in a hurry--they want to get to the water, and you're trying to spray them down and get them covered. You're going to miss a spot."
When using sunblock, it's not enough to apply the right amount. Sunblock should be reapplied approximately every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30, which provides 97 percent protection against the sun's rays as long as it's reapplied according to the instructions.
In addition to using SPF protective clothing and sunblock, people should seek shade, especially when the sun's rays are the strongest.
"Seek shade, especially during midday hours," advises the CDC. "This includes 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., March through October, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., November through February. Umbrellas, trees, or other shelters can provide relief from the sun."
While some people have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others because of age and other factors, anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color.
"I'm seeing an increase in skin cancers especially on the scalp of men and the ears of men," Scorza said.
People should wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses when possible. A baseball cap can help at least protect the scalp.
"I think that the biggest thing that I have seen over the years is young people getting skin cancer," she said. "I have seen patients as young as 16, 17 getting basal cell carcinomas for the first time, and then you really realize how much damage we are doing to our skin."
Sun damage adds up overtime, so even if you've made a lot of mistakes, begin making better decisions now.
This summer, avoid overexposure to the sun and reduce the risk of developing skin cancers, including melanoma, the deadliest form.
"I've seen melanoma here with these young people," Scorza said. "It's heartbreaking--especially if it's caught late, like they just ignored it--didn't realize it was a problem."
When skin cancer is detected early, it's highly treatable. The most common signs are changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or other lesion, or the appearance of a new growth on the skin.
For more information, please visit the CDC at www.cdc.gov or contact your primary care manager.