Pomperaug Health District Offers Skin Cancer Screening & Sun Safety Tips for Skin Cancer Awareness Month
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the Pomperaug Health District would like to remind people about the importance of protecting themselves from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. People can also be exposed to UV rays from other sources such as tanning beds. Overexposure to UV rays can increase the risk of getting skin cancer. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an estimated 87,110 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2017. The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over the age of 55. However, melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults age 25-29. The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun. On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns. If melanoma is recognized and treated early, the five-year survival rate is about 98%. But if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. The five-year survival rate when melanoma spreads to distant organs is about 18%.
Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are two other types of skin cancer. They develop on sun-exposed areas of the body, like the face, ears, neck, lips and backs of hands. They can be fast or slow growing and rarely spread to other parts of the body. A cure is highly likely if caught early. Basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal, but can be very disfiguring. Between 40% and 50% of Americans who live to age 65 will have either skin cancer at least once.
Sun Safety Tips
Skin cancer is largely preventable. More than 90% of all skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. Ultraviolet radiation is a proven human carcinogen. The Pomperaug Health District would like to offer five easy tips for UV protection:
Seek shade, especially between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. UV rays are at their strongest at that time. Move under a tree or use an umbrella or canopy.
Rub on a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15 every day. For extended outdoor activity , use SPF 30 or higher. Use at least one ounce – an amount that is about equal to the size of your palm or enough to fill a shot glass. The sunscreen should be applied every time you go outside, even on cloudy days. To be most effective, apply it about 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Don’t forget to put it on ears, nose, lips and the tops of feet. It should be reapplied generously and frequently, especially after swimming or excessive sweating. Look for a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
Wear sunglasses to help protect against getting cataracts later in life. Choose sunglasses that block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB as possible.
Cover up by wearing clothing that covers the skin. Long sleeve t-shirts and pants with a tight woven knit are best. If it’s too hot, a t-shirt and long shorts are good, especially if you also wear sunscreen and try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
Wear a hat that shades the face, scalp, ears and the back of the neck. Baseball caps offer protection for the scalp and face, but sunscreen should be applied to the ears and neck.
Skin Cancer Screening
Early detection of skin cancer is critical for a good outcome. The Pomperaug District Department of Health will sponsor a Skin Cancer Screening on Wednesday, May 17th, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Health District office, which is located at 77 Main Street North, Suite 205 in Southbury. This program is free. The skin cancer screening is meant for people who are not under the care of a dermatologist or who have not had their skin examined. Appointments are necessary and can be made by calling the Pomperaug Health District at 203-264-9616, extension 0.