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ICYMI: Amey Upton in the Holland Sentinel: Skin Cancer Awareness Month a Timely Reminder before Beach Season

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Washington, May 16, 2017 | comments

Skin Cancer Awareness Month a Timely Reminder before Beach Season
By Amey Upton
Holland Sentinel

An estimated 87,110 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma this year. Here in Michigan, there was an estimated 2,560 new diagnoses of Melanoma in 2016 and more than 300 deaths. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined number of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer cases. These statistics are even more tragic because, in many cases, skin cancer is preventable. Learning, teaching and practicing sun-safety is vital to reducing these numbers.

Sun protection is particularly important for children. Childhood sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer later in life, so practicing sun-safety with your family can have a major impact on your children’s health down the line. Teach good habits early. When outside, wearing sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, protective clothing and lip balm should become as routine for children as brushing their teeth. Tanned skin might be the “in” look, but it is just not worth the risk—so when your teenager begs to visit the indoor tanning salon before prom or to get a “base tan” before spring break, just say no.

But listen up, Dad! Your teen daughter isn’t the only one at risk for skin cancer. Did you know that more than half of those cases will be men? Males age 50 and older are at increased risk of skin cancer, and by age 65 skin cancer rates in men are double that of women. This Skin Cancer Awareness Month, educate yourself and your loved ones about skin cancer prevention.

Even though you may not be sunbathing by the pool or beach, you probably do spend a significant amount of time outdoors—attending sporting events, caring for the yard or home, or perhaps doing your job—and it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re not always using sunscreen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that only 14 percent of men applied sunscreen when outside for more than an hour. While many women receive some daily skin protection from moisturizers and makeup that contain SPF, most men do not. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, older men are the least likely to perform regular self-exams or visit a dermatologist.

It is never too late to change your habits and reduce your risk of skin cancer. Avoid the sun when its rays are most dangerous, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If that’s not possible, apply an ounce (a palm-full) of sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and UVA and UVB protection 20 minutes before going outside, then reapply every two hours. Wear sunglasses that absorb UV radiation, clothing made of tightly-woven material and a hat. Remember, even on a classic Michigan cloudy or cool day, you need to protect your skin.

You should also have a health care professional examine your skin annually, and see your doctor if you have any moles that follow the ABCDE rule (Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color not uniform, Diameter greater than 6 mm or Evolving size, shape or color).

Everyone is at risk of skin cancer regardless of age, race or gender, but it is often preventable. Make sure you and your loved ones are properly protected before you head outside this summer and throughout the year. Remember that there is no such thing as a healthy tan—and no one is immune to getting skin cancer.

To learn more about skin cancer prevention, risk factors and symptoms, visit preventcancer.org/skincancer.

Amey Upton is a member of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program and the spouse of U.S. Representative Fred Upton. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Dermatology. 

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