May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Awareness Month. May is a great time to talk about skin cancer because the weather is getting warmer and the hot days of summer are rapidly approaching. Many of us are planning to spend more time outdoors, will visit the beach or are headed out on vacation.
According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. There are many types of skin cancer, but the three most common types are: Squamous Cell Cancer, Basal Cell Cancer and Melanoma. Squamous Cell Cancer is the most common skin cancer in African Americans, followed by Basal Cell Cancer as the second most common skin cancer in African Americans. Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer among all racial groups but it is the deadliest form of skin cancer. The CDC provides skin cancer statistics on the incidence rates of melanomas only (and not of the other types of skin cancer).
Per the CDC, in 2012 the incidence rates by Race and Ethnicity of melanoma was as followed:
Among women, white women had the highest rate of getting melanoma of the skin, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and Black women. Among men, white men had the highest rate of getting melanoma of the skin, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and black men.
Per the CDC, in 2012 the death rates by Race and Ethnicity of melanoma was as followed:
Among women, white women were more likely to die of melanoma of the skin than any other group, followed by Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and Black women. Among men, white men were more likely to die of melanoma of the skin than any other group, followed by Hispanic, and Black and Asian/Pacific Islander men(tied).
When should you see a physician about a mole/spot/growth
- Not all moles/spots/growths on the skin are cancerous. But there are warning signs that should prompt a visit with your physician right away. Know the ABCDEs of Melanoma–Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter and Evolving. Visit skincancer.org to learn more about the ABCDEs of Melanoma.
- If a spot, growth or mole is new and it causes you concern, you should visit your physician and have it evaluated.
- Skin cancers are thought typically to occur in sun exposed areas, such as the face and arms, but in African Americans skin cancers such as melanoma are likely to be found in the mouth, palms of the hands, soles of the feet and under the nails. Skin cancer can present in any area of the body, so do not dismiss discolorations, growths or spots in areas such as the anus, genitals, feet, hands or nails.
Tips to protect your skin:
It only takes 15 minutes for the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV) to damage unprotected skin. UV rays are also present on cool and cloudy days, meaning you need protection year round.
- Purchase a sunscreen with UV-A and UV-B protection
- Purchase a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. SPF reflects the sun’s rays, keeping them from burning your skin.
- Apply an adequate amount of sunscreen all over your body with forgetting ears, feet and the back of the neck.
- Sunscreen quickly wears off, so reapply it every two hours.
- Do not rely on sunscreen alone. Also consider wearing lip balm with a SPF of 30 or higher, a hat with wide brim and wrap-around sun glasses.
- Seek shade whenever possible.
- Avoid tanning beds. The UV rays from tanning beds are just as dangerous as the UV rays from the sun.
- Examine your skin for changes.
People of color are not immune to skin cancer. Although people of color are less likely to have skin cancer, they are more likely to die from skin cancer because of a delay in detection. As with all cancers, early detection and prompt treatment is critical for long term survival. Be mindful and diligent and practice preventive skin care.