Have a Sun-Safe Summer

Published: May 8, 2023

Have a Sun-Safe Summer

May is recognized as Skin Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign that aims to raise public awareness of the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of early detection and prevention. 

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with more than 5 million cases diagnosed each year. It occurs when the skin cells are damaged by UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, leading to the development of abnormal cells that can multiply and form cancerous tumors. 

Fortunately, skin cancer is highly preventable and treatable, especially when detected early. This is why Skin Cancer Awareness Month is so important, as it reminds us to take precautions to protect our skin from harmful UV rays and to be vigilant about any changes in our skin. 

Older adults are particularly at risk for skin cancer, because widespread use of sunscreen wasn’t common until the 1980s. It wasn’t until the 1990s that UVA blockers were added to commercial sunscreen. So older adults are more likely to have already been exposed to UV radiation in their youth. But now that we know better, we can do better. The technology used to diagnose and treat skin cancer continues to evolve. A new study even su gests that mRNA technology could be used to make a vaccine that would reduce the risk of skin cancer when used alongside medication. That’s great news for people who have already been exposed to UV radiation. 

Still, to treat skin cancer it must first be diagnosed. Early intervention is best. Here are some common signs and symptoms to be aware of. 

  • A mole that is new or has changed in size, shape, or color. 
  • A sore that doesn’t heal or gets worse over time. 
  • A spot or bump that is scaly, itchy, or bleeds. 
  • A dark streak under a nail that wasn’t there before. 
  • Redness or swelling beyond the border of a mole. 

 If you notice any of these signs, it is important to see a dermatologist as soon as possible for evaluation and treatment. Early detection and treatment can improve the chances of a successful outcome. To reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, it’s important to practice good sun safety habits. This includes wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and hats, seeking shade during peak sun hours, and using sunscreen with at least SPF 30. 

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, various organizations and healthcare providers offer free skin cancer screenings and educational resources to promote awareness and encourage early detection. Get a skin exam, some sunscreen, and a big hat to have a safe and healthy summer in the sun.