Summertime is in full swing, and things are heating up! Daylight lasts a little longer, and many of us are spending more time outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with approximately 9,500 people diagnosed every day. At the Alliance for Health Equity, our vision is to advance a thriving, inclusive, and healthy community for all. This July, in recognition of UV Safety Awareness Month, we are providing some facts and tips to help keep everyone safe in the summer sun.
Know your risk factors and focus on prevention.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists several risk factors for skin cancer, including being older in age, having certain types and a large number of moles, a naturally lighter skin color, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, a tendency to freckle or burn easily, and a personal or family history of skin cancer. Another risk factor is exposure to UV light, which is preventable. The AAD encourages everyone to avoid indoor tanning beds and protect their skin outdoors by “seeking shade, wearing protective clothing — including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection — and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing.”
Know that the natural melanin in darker skin is not enough sun protection.
Healthline reports that, “Patients with darker skin tones have a natural SPF of 13… which is a lot less than the daily use of a SPF 30 or higher that dermatologists recommend for sun protection.” Additionally, studies have shown that “melanin may not be able to protect the skin from UVA rays as well as it protects skin from UVB rays.” Contrary to popular belief, wearing sunscreen does not prevent the body from absorbing an adequate amount of Vitamin D from the sun. It only blocks harmful UV radiation.
Know that skin cancer can affect every skin tone.
The AAD notes that, while white populations have higher skin cancer rates compared to others, “skin cancer in patients with darker skin tones is often diagnosed in its later stages, when it’s more difficult to treat.” This means that people with darker skin tones are less likely to survive melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The AAD also reports that, “People with darker skin tones are prone to skin cancer in areas that aren’t commonly exposed to the sun, like the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, the groin, and the inside of the mouth. They also may develop melanoma under their nails.”
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the AAD. In addition to melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma can develop after prolonged sun exposure. The American Cancer Society states that these two types are the most common skin cancers, along with precancerous actinic keratosis, and they are typically slow-growing and treatable when detected early. Doctors can check any worrisome spots at annual check-ups, but if you are at higher risk, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a visit to a dermatologist once a year for a full-body exam. For more information on the different types of skin cancers and how to identify them, click here.
The Alliance for Health Equity (formerly Brandywine Health Foundation) is a philanthropic organization striving to advance a more equitable, resilient and healthy community for all residents of the Greater Coatesville area. We pursue our mission by providing grants and scholarships to local nonprofits and students that address health and economic disparities and social justice. We also build partnership programs and give voice to those often left out of community solution building to improve the overall health of their communities. 100% of contributions go directly to those in need.