Wear Your Sunscreen! Skin Cancer Awareness Month


Carmen Hunderman, Contributor

Ah, can’t you just picture it? It’s summer, and you’re hanging out with your friends at the pool or the beach. You then think to yourself, “Did I put on sunscreen?” May is the month of skin cancer awareness. About 5.4 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US every year, which means some people get diagnosed with more than one type of skin cancer in just a singular year. 

Now you may ask, what exactly is skin cancer? According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the “out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.” Skin cancer can be caused by genetic influence and environmental influence, environmental influences including UV sun rays and UVA tanning bed rays. Yes, tanning beds are also dangerous for your skin. There are four major types of skin cancer:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)- A type of skin cancer that most often develops on the outer skin that is exposed to the sun, typically on the face. It’s not very fatal and is the least risky type of skin cancer 
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)- A type of skin cancer that develops squamous cells in the middle and outer layers of the skin. It grows faster than BCC but is still considered slow-growing. 
  • Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) – A type of skin cancer that is very rare and being exposed to the sun and having a very weak immune system can greatly affect your chances of MCC. It usually appears as a single painless lump, but it can be very fatal. 
  • Melanoma- A type of skin cancer that develops in the cells that produce melanin, melanin being the pigment that gives your skin its color. This is the most serious type of skin cancer. 

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice any discoloration or abnormalities on your skin because many skin cancers can be cured when treated before it spreads. Advanced cases can be fatal and make for a hard recovery. 

I asked a group of teens about how often they use sunscreen, and I am pleased to say that at least 52.4% of teens use sunscreen when knowing they will be outside for long periods. And shout out to the 9.5% who use sunscreen every day. 38.1% of teens said they knew somebody who is dealing with or has dealt with skin cancer. Senior Katie Tanner stated, “I know someone who has had several spots removed and it makes me more conscious of my sunscreen usage.” I believe is a great practice, even if you don’t know anybody with skin cancer. 

By the age of 70, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, but it is also considered the most preventable. 

So, how do we prevent skin cancer? 

Well for starters, wear sunscreen! Because yes, it does matter. I know it can be stinky and feel yucky on your skin but for every day use, maybe try SPF 15 daily sunscreen. But for those days when you know that you will be outside for long periods, you need an SPF of 50 or higher, which blocks 97% of the sun’s UV rays. Also, sunglasses help protect your eyes and the sensitive skin around your eyes. When possible, try to wear long sleeves, but of course, on those hot summer days, it might not be possible. On those days, wear your SPF! Before you go for those pool days, cookout days, or sporting event days, make sure you carry sunscreen your sunscreen with you for reapplication. 

Be safe for the summer!

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