The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) first implemented November as Healthy Skin Month in order to raise awareness about the importance of keeping skin fresh, hydrated and healthy all year round. Because we live in Arizona with 360 days of sunshine a year (only a slight exaggeration), at DeRosa Medical we want to take this opportunity to focus on the importance of sunscreen and explaining what is skin cancer; i.e., melanoma.
What is Melanoma?
According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, melanoma is usually, but not always, a cancer of the skin. It begins in melanocytes – the cells that produce the pigment melanin that colors the skin, hair and eyes. Melanocytes also form moles, where melanoma often develops. Having moles can be a risk factor for melanoma, but it’s important to remember that most moles do not become melanoma.
What causes Melanoma?
Research suggests that approximately 90% of melanoma cases can be linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from natural or artificial sources, such as sunlight and indoor tanning beds. At DeRosa Medical, we are vehemently against the use of tanning beds. Why would you PAY to get skin cancer?
The American Cancer Society reports that in 2016, there were more than 76,000 people diagnosed with melanoma. One person dies of melanoma every 52 minutes. People under the age of 45 account for 25% of all diagnosed melanomas.
The incidence of melanoma has increased 15 times over the past 40 years. This is the most rapid increase for any cancer in the United States. Early diagnosis has increased the overall survival rate when the tumors are at a thinner depth. Improvement in treatment and surgical treatment has had an impact on these statistics.
Caucasian-Americans are 23 times more likely to develop melanoma than African-Americans. That statistic holds true worldwide for Caucasians; however, people of Asian dissent have the lowest risks according to the AIM Melanoma Foundation.
Lucky to Be in Arizona
In Arizona, the sun is most powerful and most harmful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It is vital that your face, scalp, eyes and, yes, ears be covered when you are spending any time outdoors. It is of the imperative that the use of sunscreen is applied liberally and frequently throughout time spent in the sun. Your best protection is a wearing a hat and liberal sunscreen use. Wearing a hat with at least a four-inch brim will offer optimum UV ray protection.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 80% of skin cancers occur on the head, neck and hands. Their recommendation is the use of sun screen with at least a 15 SPF rating that both is waterproof and sweat proof; apply 20 minutes prior to going outdoors and reapply every two hours. And, don’t forget about the lips. Look for a lip balm with the same SPF as sunscreen and apply as frequently as you would sunscreen for the body.
When purchasing sunscreen look for ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. There are also new clothing lines on the market that have UV blocking properties that can protect from the sun (swimwear included). Also consider laundry additives, which give clothing additional layers of UV protection that will last through several washings.
Should you be able to escape the desert for the cool crisp air of the mountains, don’t forget your sunscreen! There is a five percent increase in ultra violet rays per 1,000 feet of elevation, and on a cloudy day, 85% of the UV rays come through the clouds! Remember, whether you are at the lake, in the mountains or in the low-lying deserts of our great state, you are never far away from harmful UV rays!
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, should be your new mantra when venturing outdoors!