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May Is Skin Cancer Awareness Month
Updated May 27, 2016 6:20 AM | Filed under: Health
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(INDIANAPOLIS) - May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and state health officials are urging Hoosiers to take steps to prevent skin cancer.

According to The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., with 5 million people treated each year. The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. A third type, melanoma, is more aggressive and accounts for just 1 percent of skin cancer cases, but causes the most skin cancer-related deaths. In 2013, 1,174 Hoosiers were diagnosed with melanoma, and 229 Hoosiers died as a result of the disease.

"Skin cancer is preventable, and every Hoosier should protect their skin regardless of their race or ethnicity," said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. "Reducing exposure to the sun, wearing sunscreen and staying away from tanning beds and sun lamps can help Hoosiers avoid the physical, financial and emotional toll of this cancer diagnosis."

Most skin cancers are at least partially caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, so reducing exposure lowers one's skin cancer risk. Sunburn is a clear sign of overexposure to UV rays. More than one in every three Americans reports getting sunburned each year.

Indoor tanning devices, such as tanning beds, tanning booths and sun lamps, expose users to intense UV radiation. More than 400,000 cases of skin cancer, about 6,000 of which are melanomas, are related to indoor tanning in the U.S. each year.

"There is no such thing as a safe tan," Dr. Adams said. "Tanned skin is damaged skin, and people who tan indoors are much more likely to develop melanoma than those who don't. By educating people about the risks of all types of UV exposure, we can help keep Hoosiers safe year-round."

The Surgeon General's report identifies simple preventive measures that Hoosiers can take to reduce their risks of skin cancer. These include:

  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Use protection, such as a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes.
  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants or a long skirt for additional protection when possible, or try wearing a T-shirt or a long beach cover-up.
  • Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher at least 15 minutes before going outside, even on cloudy or overcast days. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.

Early detection is also critical. To help with early detection for melanoma, Hoosiers should become familiar with the ABCDE rule:

  • A = Asymmetry: One half of the mole (or lesion) does not match the other half
  • B = Border: The border, or edges of the mole, are ragged, notched or blurred
  • C = Color: The color is not uniform, with variable degrees of tan, brown or black
  • D = Diameter: The diameter, or size, of a mole or skin lesion is greater than six millimeters from side-to-side (or the size of a pencil eraser). Any sudden increase in the size should be checked.
  • E = Evolution: Any changes at all in a mole, including changing shape, size or color
  • Because skin cancer may appear differently on different people, it is important to talk to a health care provider about any changes in moles or the skin.
Those interested in reducing the burden of cancer in Indiana should consider participating in the Indiana Cancer Consortium (ICC). The ICC is a statewide network of partnerships whose mission is to reduce the cancer burden in Indiana through the development, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive plan that addresses cancer across the continuum from prevention through palliation. Participation in the ICC is open to all organizations and individuals interested in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, survivorship, data collection and advocacy regarding cancer-related issues. For more information, or to join the ICC, visit www.IndianaCancer.org. Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov for important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1. To learn more about skin cancer in Indiana, or to view the Indiana Cancer Facts and Figures 2015 report, visit www.IndianaCancer.org.

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