May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the dangers of skin cancer and to encourage people to protect their skin from harmful UV rays. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with more than 5 million cases diagnosed each year. It is also one of the most preventable types of cancer, as most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to the sun.
Skin cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, often as a result of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer and are typically less dangerous than melanoma, which is the most deadly.
While skin cancer is most often associated with sun exposure, it can also be caused by exposure to other sources of UV radiation, such as tanning beds or occupational exposure to UV radiation. Other risk factors for skin cancer include fair skin, a history of sunburns, a weakened immune system, and a family history of skin cancer.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. One of the most important things you can do is to protect your skin from the sun. This includes wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses, and applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher whenever you are outside.
It's also important to avoid tanning beds, which can expose your skin to harmful UV radiation and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. If you are going to be outside for an extended period of time, try to stay in the shade or bring an umbrella or other shade structure with you.
Another way to reduce your risk of skin cancer is to perform regular skin self-exams. This involves examining your skin from head to toe to look for any unusual moles or spots. If you notice any changes in your skin, such as a new mole or a mole that has changed in size, shape, or color, it's important to see a dermatologist as soon as possible.
During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, take the time to educate yourself and others about the importance of protecting your skin from the sun and detecting skin cancer early. By taking these simple steps, you can help reduce your risk of skin cancer and keep your skin healthy for years to come.