!-- Staying Safe in the Sun
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Staying Safe in the Sun

As the summer approaches and the number of people who plan for some fun in the sun this season increases, so too does the likelihood of damage to unprotected skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

There's often more to being unprotected in the full summer sun than getting a painful sun burn. Most skin cancers are also caused by overexposure to ultraviolet, or UV, radiation.

Skin cancer, or melanoma is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with about a million new cases diagnosed each year. The incidence of melanoma rises rapidly in Caucasians after age 20, especially in males, which could be a result of increased recreational exposure to sunlight. It's estimated that in 2000, about 47,700 individuals developed melanoma and almost 7,700 died. In 2013, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 76,250 new cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, and more than two million new cases of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers in the United States.

Who is at Risk?

The answer to the above question is "everyone". In general, people with lighter-toned skin are more susceptible to UV damage, although people of all races and ethnicities can be at risk. People with a family history of skin cancer, who exhibit many moles or freckles, or have a history of severe sunburns early in life run a higher risk of developing skin cancer, too.

Most skin cancer is diagnosed after age 50. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 40 to 50 percent of people in the United States who reach age 65 will have at least one episode of skin cancer during their lifetime.

To keep the harmful effects of solar exposure at bay, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention offers the following tips:

  • Don't burn or tan
  • Seek shade where possible
  • Wear sun-protective Clothing
  • Apply sunscreen with broad spectrum protection generously
  • Take extra care near naturally reflective surfaces such as open water, sand, and snow

Fortunately, skin cancer is preventable and can often be cured if it is detected early. Over 90 percent of melanomas that appear on the skin can be recognized with the naked eye.The easiest way to detect skin cancer early is to examine the skin regularly and look for changes in moles and skin growths.

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