SHERIDAN — It’s ultraviolet safety month and local health experts are pushing awareness and commonsense protections to keep people healthy.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, killing 13,650 people each year, according to the American Cancer Society.
“Skin cancer is dangerous because it can be so easy to miss,” said Morgan Powell, Integrated Cancer Services outreach coordinator with the Wyoming Department of Health. “When it’s missed it can spread to other parts of the body, which makes it much more difficult to treat.”
Every year, 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer. Most of those cases are basal and squamous cell skin cancers, which develop in the outer layers of skin and are easier to treat.
Melanoma grows deeper under the skin and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
It is the deadliest type of skin cancer and will account for 76,380 cases in 2016, according to American Cancer Society projections.
According to Powell, risk factors for skin cancer include lighter skin tone, eye color or hair color; tanning; a history of sunburns; personal or family history of skin cancer; and sun exposure during work or play.
In outdoors-loving Sheridan, skin experts urge caution.
Amy Herring, a physician assistant at Robbins Dermatology, said there are a few simple dos and don’ts people should follow to protect their skin.
• Don’t tan outside or in tanning beds.
• Don’t spend time outside to get vitamin D. Herring said it’s a common misconception that people need to spend extra time in the sun to get vitamin D, and that people generally get enough of this during their daily routines. For people who are vitamin D deficient, Herring recommends taking vitamin supplements.
• Don’t put sunscreen on babies younger than six months. Their skin is too sensitive, so parents should keep them out of the sun during peak hours.
• For anyone older than six months, wear sunscreen when out between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This should be at least SPF 30, water-resistant and broad spectrum.
• Reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours when out in the sun, because the sun’s rays break down the titanium or zinc oxide barrier that sunscreen provides.
This must be done every 1-2 hours for people with fair skin.
•Wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses when in the sun as an extra barrier. This is especially important when around water or snow, since those surfaces reflect the sun and compound the rays a person is exposed to.
• Regularly check your skin for any new moles or changes to old moles and consult a doctor if you see anything out of the ordinary. Powell recommends specific tips for examining skin.
“When looking over the skin look for spots that are asymmetrical, have border irregularity, color variations and diameters of 6 millimeters or more,” she explained. “This is also known as the ABCDs of skin cancer.”
So as you head outdoors to make the most of the summer months, don’t forget the sunscreen, hats and shades. Your skin will thank you.