Here’s a statistic you may find surprising. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetimes. Your odds of having skin cancer increase with age and if you have a family member who has had skin cancer.
Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined.
Here are a few other eye-opening statistics. Each year in the U.S., more than 3.3 million people are treated for non-melanoma skin cancer. Since some people can have a skin cancer recurrence, the total number of cases treated annually is 5.4 million.
About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are related to exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). That’s why you often hear reminders to wear sunscreen or protective clothing when you’re in the sun!
Given that it’s likely that some readers of this blog will be diagnosed with skin cancer, here’s what should you know.
Skin cancers that are found and removed early have a good chance of treatment success.
To find a skin cancer early, follow the recommendation from The Skin Cancer Foundation. Do a monthly head-to-toe self-examination of your skin. The examination should check for new or changing moles or lesions that might be precancerous or cancerous.
Checking your skin monthly allows you to become familiar with irregularities on your skin. Spotting changes on your skin is the first step in discovering the development potential skin cancer.
A good time to check your skin is after a shower or bath. A full-length mirror, a hand-held mirror and good lighting are the tools you’ll need for a self-examination.
If you have a partner and you’re comfortable helping each other, your partner can help you. He/she can check parts of your skin you may not see well.
Think about the health benefits of a potentially life-saving skin checkup. The benefits may outweigh the hesitation to have a partner help. You can help each other with your skin checks so you both come out ahead.
If you or your partner notice something questionable on your skin, promptly see your health care professional. A dermatologist is a professional who can provide care for a number of skin conditions, including skin cancer.
During your monthly check, become familiar with where you have moles. Note what they look and feel like. The National Cancer Institute recommends you take these steps during your skin check:
Write down the dates of your skin checks on a calendar that you keep track of. Make note of the way your skin and moles look on those dates. You might want to take photos so you can note changes over time.
Anyone can get skin cancer, but it’s more common if you:
If you have these risk factors, you may want to get a skin cancer screening. Your health care professional can provide the screening.
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