Heed Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Are you doing enough to prevent skin cancer? May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and with summertime just around the corner, it’s time to remind yourself and your loved ones of the steps you should take to reduce your risk. Skin cancer is dangerous, but in most cases, you can prevent it.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. An estimated 91,270 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma-the most deadly form of skin cancer- in 2018, and about 9,320 Americans are expected to die from melanoma this year. In North Dakota state alone, 220 will be diagnosed this year.

And while melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can lead to significant pain and disfigurement if they are not detected early on-and if left untreated, they can also be lethal.

Everyone is at risk for skin cancer regardless of age, skin color or gender. If you have darker skin, your risk is lower, but you still need to protect yourself. Unfortunately, many African-Americans and Hispanics underestimate their risk, leading to late diagnoses, when the cancer is more likely to have spread.

Most skin cancer develops from sunburns experienced as a kid, so sun protection should begin early. Make sure your entire family wears broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, and be sure to reapply. You should also avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and wear hats, sunglasses and long sleeves if possible.

Applying sunscreen when you’re outdoors for long periods of time in the summer is not enough. Skin damage can occur any time of year, even on cloudy days and during short periods of time outdoors. Indoor tanning is not a safe alternative — no tan is safe.

Use the ABCDE Rule when looking at moles (Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color that is not uniform, Diameter greater than 6 mm, and Evolving size, shape or color) to examine your skin, and visit a health care professional if you notice any of these characteristics. For more ways to reduce your risk of cancer, visit www.preventcancer.org.

Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society.

Mikey Hoeven is the spouse of Senator John Hoeven and a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program.