The Incidence of Skin Cancer Has Reached Epidemic Levels

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Awareness Month

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“It’s a common misconception that burning, not tanning, is damaging to your skin. The reality is there is no such thing as a healthy tan,” says Stuart Zweibel, MD, PHD, a dermatologist with Westchester Health Associates

Hoboken, NJ (PRWEB) May 11, 2010

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Awareness Month, the perfect time to increase awareness about the importance of sun protection. According to Westchester Health Associates, a clinical affiliate of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States but it is also one of the most preventable and treatable. Studies cited by the Skin Cancer Foundation have shown that you only receive about 23% of your lifetime sun exposure by the age of 18 -- not 80% contrary to popular belief.

The following facts have been compiled by the experts at Westchester Health Associates to help you become Sun Smart.

The incidence of skin cancer has reached epidemic levels: Recent findings have shown a 300% increase in non-melanoma skin cancer since 1994 and 90% is associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. In addition, the incidence of melanoma continues to rise. One in five Americans will have skin cancer at some point in their lives. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the lung, prostate and breast.

Just because you do not burn, doesn’t mean you’re not damaging your skin: “It’s a common misconception that burning, not tanning, is damaging to your skin. The reality is there is no such thing as a healthy tan,” says Stuart Zweibel, MD, PHD, a dermatologist with Westchester Health Associates, a clinical affiliate of The Mount Sinai Medical Center. “A tan is actually your body’s attempt to protect itself from the sun’s harmful rays and is a symptom of the sun damage that is occurring beneath the surface of the skin.”

Protect your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more: A broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and an SPF 30 will provide most people with adequate protection if used properly. However if you’re very fair you may need to use a sunscreen with a higher SPF to protect against burning, depending on the amount of time you’re exposed to the sun.

Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors: Sunscreen ingredients need time to bind to the skin to be effective. If you apply it at the beach you could get burned in the time it takes for it to work. Be sure to apply sunscreen over all exposed skin and even on cloudy days when as much as 40% of the sun’s rays reach the earth. Reapply every 2 hours and immediately after swimming and heavy sweating.

When choosing a sunscreen look for broad spectrum sunscreens that contain ingredients such as Avobenzone (Parsol 1789), Mexoryl or zinc or titanium oxide: According to Dr. Zweibel, these ingredients are particularly effective at blocking the widest spectrum of ultraviolet light including UVA that is largely responsible for the deeper damage that can lead to skin cancer and premature signs of aging.

Avoid the midday sun: The hours between 10 AM and 4 PM are when the sun is the strongest and can do the most damage, “One of the most important things you can do to protect your skin besides applying a sunscreen is to manage your exposure time and wear protective clothing, such as long sleeved shirts, pants and a broad-brimmed hat,” says Samuel Beran, MD, a plastic surgeon with Westchester Health Associates, a clinical affiliate of The Mount Sinai Medical Center. Limiting exposure to the sun will also help prevent the many of the visible skin changes attributed to aging--wrinkles, brown spots and sagging skin--that are mostly caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Protect children from sun exposure. Keep newborns out of the sun. For children six months and over, apply sunscreen, and make sure they have on protective clothing including a hat. Seek the shade during playtime.

Don’t Use Tanning Beds: Growing concerns about the dangers of indoor tanning have recently led to new taxes and restrictions to help deter the practice among young people. Contrary to what tanning parlors may claim, the radiation that comes from indoor tanning is as damaging to the skin, if not more, as direct, prolonged exposure to sunlight and the UVA rays used in the machines penetrate deeper into the skin.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, studies have found that individuals exposed to tanning beds under the age of 35 have a 75% increased risk of getting melanoma. What’s more, tanning booths increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.

Know the warning signs of skin cancer: A skin growth that changes in size and appears pearly, translucent, brown, black, tan or multicolored; a mole or birthmark that changes color or texture or increases in thickness, is irregular in outline and larger than the head of an eraser; a spot or sore that continues to itch, scab or bleed and does not heal within 3 weeks. If you notice one of the signs above see a physician, preferably one that specializes in diseases of the skin.

Get screened once a year: While it’s important to examine your own skin regularly for any suspicious lesions, a dermatologist is trained to spot abnormalities you might not pick up through a self-exam.

Westchester Health Associates (WestchesterHealth.com) is a medical group comprised of over 90 highly qualified, experienced physicians in 42 offices located throughout the Westchester community. Westchester Health Associates offers the highest quality primary and specialty care for adults and children. This growing network provides a full range of diagnostic, consultative, clinical and preventative care in nearly every medical and surgical specialty. Westchester Health Associates is a clinical affiliate of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York.

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