Skin Cancer Rates Double: Here is How to Protect Yourself

Photo (cc) by corsi photo

Rates of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, have doubled over the past few decades, according to the CDC.

In 1982, there were 11.2 cases of melanoma for every 100,000 people. By 2011, there were 22.7 cases per 100,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest monthly Vital Signs report. That amounted to more than 65,000 cases in 2011 alone.

Melanoma, which is caused by skin cell damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, kills more than 9,000 people each year. However, experts say stepping up prevention efforts now could cut the rate of new cases by 20 percent from 2020 to 2030.

Dr. Lisa Richardson, director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, states in a press release:

“The rate of people getting melanoma continues to increase every year compared to the rates of most other cancers, which are declining.

“If we take action now, we can prevent hundreds of thousands of new cases of skin cancers, including melanoma, and save billions of dollars in medical costs.”

To that end, experts most commonly recommend that people:

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen. (Check out “The ABCs of Sun Protection” for help choosing and using an effective product.)
  • Wear protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Seek shade whenever possible.
  • Avoid tanning beds, which, just like the sun, emit cancer-causing ultraviolet light.

New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Michele S. Green tells CBS News that, in addition to seeing a dermatologist annually for skin cancer screenings, keeping watch over your own skin from head to toe is key to early detection.

Melanoma is one of three types of skin cancer. Here’s how Green describes them:

  • Basal cell carcinoma: The least dangerous form of skin cancer typically appears red or pearlescent. Some forms have a raised border.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: It often looks like a thick and rough scaly patch that may bleed if bumped or scraped.
  • Melanoma: Its hallmarks include a dark color, practically black, and irregular border. Sometimes it’s asymmetrical. It grows and thickens over time.

In addition, there are precancers known as actinic keratoses. These scaly patches,which can be raised or flat, are usually pink or red and rough. Untreated, they can turn into squamous cell carcinomas.

Finally, there are atypical moles (dysplastic nevi) that usually are benign but should be watched. People who have them are at a higher risk of risk of developing melanomas, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

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