NDSU Extension Service - Mercer County

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National Melanoma Month

skin cancer, melanoma, National Melanoma Skin Cancer Prevention Month, sunburns, sunscreen

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Designated by the American Academy of Dermatology, National Melanoma Skin Cancer Prevention Month aims to raise awareness about skin cancer, increasing the chances of early detection so treatments can be given early. It's vital that skin cancers such as melanoma, a rarer and often deadly form of skin cancer, is treated early as later stage treatments are not normally effective.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only a few serious sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer later in life. You don’t have to be at the pool or the beach to get too much sun. Skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever you are outdoors.

UVB rays cause sunburn and the most impact during midday. Both types of radiation weaken the body’s immune system in addition to causing cancer. An estimated 1 million skin cancer cases are diagnosed annually in the U.S.; the majority of these are sun related.

The good news is that you can prevent UV radiation from hurting you and your family. Teaching children to practice smart sun habits while they are young will help them stay sun safe their entire life.

Sunscreen and clothing offer the best forms of significant UV protection. All fabrics offer some protection, but clothing that offers the most protection carries an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) value, a rating system used for apparel. More and more outdoor clothing carries this rating.

UPF gauges a fabric’s effectiveness against both UVA and UVB radiation. UPF ratings range from 15 (good) to 50+ (excel­lent). A UPF rating of 50 would indicate that the fabric in a garment will allow one-fiftieth or 2 percent of available UV radiation to pass through it.

A strategy for overall protection includes the use of sunscreen, wearing UV-protective clothing and limiting the amount of time you expose yourself to the sun’s radiation. Here are some tips for the best protection:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15-30 minutes before going outdoors. Don’t forget noses, ears, lips and the tops of feet.

  • Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes. Look for styles that block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
  • Choose a hat that shades the face, scalp, ears and neck. You can find fun styles that offer great protection.

  • Cover up with clothing to provide the most protection for sun-sensitive skin.

  • Watch for signs of skin cancer with moles or other pigmented spots. Remember “ABCD” when you are checking your skin. Asymmetrical: one half doesn’t match the other half; Border is irregular; Color is uneven or changes; and Diameter is larger than the size of a pencil eraser. Be sun savvy. Protect yourself from skin cancer.

Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ. Take care of it! Cover up in the sun with shirts, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. Be sun savvy. Protect yourself from skin cancer.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Food and Nutrition Specialist

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