Non Melanoma Skin Cancer on the Rise

Non Melanoma Skin Cancer on the Rise

By now you’ve heard that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and have probably also heard (maybe ignored) warnings about the sun. Now might be a good time to listen, as a new study finds that non melanoma skin cancer appears to be on the rise in the U.S.

Figures from 1992-2006 have cases of non melanoma skin cancer in the Medicare population rising an average of 4.2% a year. It’s important to understand that most of the cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer diagnosed in the U.S. each year are considered to be related to sun exposure.

You’ve probably heard of the most deadly form of cancer of the skin, melanoma, but there are other, less dangerous but still serious, forms as well. These include basal cell carcinoma, often in patients with light hair, light eyes and fair complexions. Squamous cell carcinoma is another form also generally found on the skin of Caucasian people, typically appearing as nodules on the skin along the rim of the ear, face, mouth and lips.

According to the research, in 2006, an estimated 3.5 million nonmelanoma skin cancers were diagnosed in the United States.

You should know the research does have some pretty significant limitations. How it estimated the incidence of these forms of skin cancer is one. What’s more, the experts made the assumption that one treatment equaled one cancer incidence.

The team counters by pointing out that they used nationally representative databases that give a much higher figure than any earlier estimates. Despite everything, the estimate of nonmelanoma skin cancers the researchers put out there is better than anything we have now.

The take home message, according to those involved with the study, is that nonmelanoma skin cancer is “under recognized”.

When it comes to protecting from any form of skin cancer, it’s important to understand how to shield yourself from the dangerous UV (ultraviolet) rays of the sun, without having to forgo time outside. These rays are around even on cloudy or hazy days, and can reflect off surfaces like water, cement, snow and sand.

To protect your skin as you head out on spring break, or during the warm, summer months to come, you’ll want to…

– Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and look for both UVA and UVB protection. Apply before you go out, and be sure to put a thick, even layer on all skin surfaces. Reapply every two hours, or after swimming or exercise that makes you sweat.

– Wear protective clothing (loose, long sleeve shirts and pants made of lightly woven fabric) to shield exposed skin. A hat with a wide brim all the way around will shade your face, ears and neck, as well as the top of your head. Canvas is a better choice than straw.

– Seek shade during the heat of the day – 10: AM to 4:00 PM. An umbrella, tree or other shelter will offer great relief from the sun.

– Choose sunglasses that wrap around your face and block up to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays, important when wanting to prevent non melanoma skin cancer. Most sunglasses sold in the U.S., no matter the price, meet this standard.

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