Summer is around the corner, and many may be tempted to expose their skin to the warm rays of the sun. But, as experts warn, it's important for people to protect themselves from exposure, which can damage skin and lead to skin cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than half of all new cancers are skin cancers. More than a million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year. About 10,250 people will die of skin cancer this year, 7,910 from invasive melanoma and 2,340 from other skin cancers.
More than three-quarters of people who die from skin cancer have melanoma. But melanoma is highly curable if it is caught early. The main way to do this is to regularly do a self-examination and look for moles that may be a sign of skin cancer. Also, people who have a high risk of developing skin cancer should have their skin examined by a dermatologist.
Dr. Boni Elewski, president of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, "One of the risk factors for melanoma is five sunburns. Five sunburns will increase the risk of melanoma - double the risk, actually. Someone with naturally blonde or red hair has a higher risk. Caucasians have 10 times the risk of other races, but it can occur in anyone. Anyone who has had sun damage, no matter what the ethnicity, has a risk of melanoma."
Showing an ultraviolet picture of Smith's face, Elewski points at the brown spots around his nose, under his eyes and above his lips, but says his skin is actually not bad.
"You must have turned over a new leaf and started wearing sunscreen and a hat," Elewski says, "If you have been bad and in the sun and getting sunburn, if you stop now and protect your skin with an SPF 15 and apply it liberally and daily, and use other common sense, you don't have to live in a cave."
Just by taking the necessary precautions, you can slow down precancerous conditions. She tells Smith, "It allows time for your skin to repair itself. By repairing, it helps reduce the risk of skin cancer. The brown spots don't necessarily go away, but you won't get any more."
She recommends wearing sunscreen of minimum SPF 15, a hat with a broad brim and sun protective clothing. She says, "Apply your sunscreen about 20 minutes before you go outside and every two hours."
For more about skin cancer and free screenings in your area, go to AAD.org.