Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. The most dangerous kind is melanoma. UV radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer and can also come from tanning booths or sunlamps. Melanoma appears in the form of a mole or suddenly appears as a dark spot on the skin. Skin cancer can almost always be cured when it’s found and treated early. Communities, health professionals, and you can work together to prevent skin cancer or detect it early on.
The risk of melanoma is much higher for Caucasians than for African Americans. Individuals with red or blond hair, blue or green eyes, or fair skin that freckles or burns easily are at an increased risk. A person’s immune system also plays a role, those with a weakened immune systems (from certain diseases or medical treatments) are more likely to develop many types of skin cancer, including melanoma. Melanoma is more likely to occur in older people, but it is also found in younger people. In fact, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in people younger than 30.
Simply staying in the shade is the best way to protect yourself from UV rays, however, that’s not realistic. If you are going to be in the sun, sunscreen is most important. Be sure to read the label, sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended. Make sure you have a hat, sunglasses, and light colored clothing to protect yourself as well. Most skin cancers can be found early with skin exams. Checking your own skin frequently can help detect anything abnormal. The best time to do this simple monthly exam is after a bath or shower. Check any moles, blemishes, or birthmarks from the top of your head to your toes. Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you.
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