From the Harford County Health Department:
While the month of May is designated every year as the official national observance of Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the official start of summer and this week’s heat wave reinforce the public’s need for heightened awareness about protection against ultraviolet radiation and the risks of skin cancer.
Harford County Health Department Cancer Prevention Services Program Supervisor Elaine Krajewski reminds the public that year-around protection and avoidance of sun exposure and artificial ultraviolet radiation (UV) is the key in preventing skin cancer. Says Ms. Krajewski, “People can reduce their risk of skin cancer by limiting their exposure to UV light, especially between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., wearing sun protective hats, clothing, and sunglasses with UV protection when exposed to sunlight, using sunscreens and lip balms with a SPF of 15 or higher even in cloudy conditions, and avoiding artificial sources of UV light, such as tanning booths and tanning lamps.”
Of the three major categories of skin cancer, basal and squamous cell skin cancers are more common and although serious, rarely spread to other parts of the body. Less common but far more dangerous, is melanoma skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body and which accounts for about three-quarters of all skin cancer deaths.
The number of people with melanoma, particularly among young women, has been increasing for several years according to the National Cancer Institute. In 2009, approximately 1,310 Marylanders and 68,720 persons in the United States were diagnosed with this deadly disease.
The American Cancer Society’s awareness campaign for skin cancer prevention promotes the slogan “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap” . . . a catch phrase that reminds people of the 4 key methods they can use to protect themselves from UV radiation. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them from ultraviolet light.
Other major risk factors for melanoma include having a history of childhood sunburn, certain types of moles, fair skin, freckles, red or blond hair, and personal and family history of skin cancers. Spots on the skin that are new or that change in size, shape, border, or color require physician attention.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and its local health departments and partners, such as the Maryland Skin Cancer Prevention Program of the Center for a Healthy Maryland, educate Maryland residents to protect their skin from both natural and artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation.
Important statistics as well as valuable resources including games and activities parents and teachers can use to help teach children the importance of sun and skin protection are readily available by visiting the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention website at www.skincancerprevention.org or the Maryland Skin Cancer Prevention Program website at www.sunguardman.org. For additional information, visit the Harford County Health Department website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com or call 410-612-1780.