May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month
ROME, Ga., May 25, 2023 – As the weather warms up in May, more and more people start heading out to the local pools and planning beach trips. You should also plan to protect yourself from the sun.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and while late spring and summer are when most people are most likely to get too much sun, protecting yourself from ultraviolet rays is something you should take seriously all year long.
“Also, don't fall for misconceptions," warns Dr. Nicholas Von Der Ahe, with Atrium Health Floyd Primary Care Family Medicine in Rockmart. “Some people associate being tan with being healthy. That is not the case. What we call a good tan can actually be a sign that your skin has been damaged. That is why you should find a way to keep as much as your skin covered as possible when you are outside during the day."
Your likelihood of over-exposure is greater during 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. But be aware that you are also affected by UV rays when it is cloudy and cool. UV rays are also reflected off water, so being by the pool doesn't protect you.
“Overexposure to UV rays leads to most types of skin cancers, and the sun is not the only contributor. Sunlamps and tanning beds can also be bad for your skin," said Dr. Von Der Ahe.
It is recommended that people take the following preventative steps to protect their skin from too much UV exposure and to lower skin cancer risk:
- Stay in the shade as much as possible, under an umbrella, tree or other shelter.
- Use sunscreen and wear protective clothing when you're outside, even if you're in the shade. Sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher should be applied in a thick layer on all exposed skin. The higher the SPF, the more protection the sunscreen offers. Be sure to reapply at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off. The use of sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months old. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that infants be dressed in protective clothing and kept in the shade.
- Wear a hat that has a brim that shades your face, ears and the back of your neck. If you wear a baseball cap, protect your ears and the back of your neck with clothing, sunscreen or by staying in the shade.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the skin around your eyes from sun exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Wrap-around styles block UV rays from coming in from the side.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. More than 4.3 million adults are treated for skin cancer each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
One in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Anyone can get skin cancer. While we all know pale, red-headed people tend to burn easily, skin cancer can affect everyone. Darker-skinned people also can be affected, but people with darker skin have more protection from UV rays.
As many people already know, anyone can get skin cancer but some people with the following characteristics are more likely to get it:
- light-colored skin
- blue or green eyes
- blond or red hair
- family history
- older people
“There is also an increased chance of developing skin cancer if you have blistered several times during your lifetime. But higher UV exposure alone increases the risk that you might develop skin cancer," Dr. Von Der Ahe said.
Apply sunscreen before you go outside and reapply often, especially if you are swimming. If you're concerned about a mole or another spot on your skin, see your primary care doctor. Moles that itch or change shape, size or color should be examined as soon as possible. The earlier cancer is identified, the more successful the treatment tends to be.
The three most common skin cancers, also called carcinomas, are basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma.
Basal cell cancers often look like recurring sore that may scab up, a flat lesion or even a whitish bump. They usually appear in areas that are most likely to be exposed to the sun, like your face, neck and arms.
Squamous cell cancers often appear as a raised, red bumps or a flat wounds with a crusted appearance. They too most often appear in areas that get the most sun, but people with darker skin are more likely to get them on other areas of the body.
Melanoma cancers can develop anywhere on your body and can affect anyone of any color. Signs can include dark spots or small, irregular lesions.
You should see your physician if you notice any of those skin conditions.
UV exposure has been linked to several eye problems, perhaps the most serious ones are cataracts and macular degeneration.
A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of the eye. Prolonged exposure to UV can cause the creation of cataracts and a decline in eyesight.
Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the macula, the light-sensitive area of the retina, is damaged. That part of the eye controls sharp, straight-ahead vision. Some indicate prolonged exposure to UV rays without protection increases the risk for AMD.
About Atrium Health Floyd
The Atrium Health Floyd family of health care services is a leading medical provider and economic force in northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama. Atrium Health Floyd is part of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Advocate Health, the fifth-largest nonprofit health system in the United States, created from the combination of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health. Atrium Health Floyd employs more than 3,5 00 teammates who provide care in over 40 medical specialties at three hospitals: Atrium Health Floyd Medical Center – a 304-bed full-service, acute care hospital and regional referral center in Rome, Georgia; Atrium Health Floyd Polk Medical Center in Cedartown, Georgia; and Atrium Health Floyd Cherokee Medical Center in Centre, Alabama; as well as Atrium Health Floyd Medical Center Behavioral Health – a freestanding 53-bed behavioral health facility in Rome – and also primary care and urgent care network locations throughout northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama.
About Advocate Health
Advocate Health is the fifth-largest nonprofit integrated health system in the United States – created from the combination of Advocate Aurora Health and Atrium Health. Providing care under the names Advocate Health Care in Illinois, Atrium Health in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, and Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, Advocate Health is a national leader in clinical innovation, health outcomes, consumer experience and value-based care, with Wake Forest University School of Medicine serving as the academic core of the enterprise. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Advocate Health serves nearly 6 million patients and is engaged in hundreds of clinical trials and research studies. It is nationally recognized for its expertise in cardiology, neurosciences, oncology, pediatrics and rehabilitation, as well as organ transplants, burn treatments and specialized musculoskeletal programs. Advocate Health employs nearly 150,000 team members across 67 hospitals and over 1,000 care locations and offers one of the nation's largest graduate medical education programs with over 2,000 residents and fellows across more than 200 programs. Committed to equitable care for all, Advocate Health provides nearly $5 billion in annual community benefits.