By Daniel M. Siegel, MD, FAAD President, American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)
Millions of Americans may not be aware of the threat of skin cancer, including, for example, young women who frequently visit indoor tanning salons and older men who regularly hit the golf course without sunscreen or protective clothing. In fact, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer affecting more than two million people are diagnosed each year. The good news is that most types of this cancer are preventable and treatable when caught at an early stage.
It’s easy to become complacent about things, even if it’s something that could ultimately threaten your health and well-being. That’s why we at the American Academy of Dermatology come out swinging against skin cancer every day. On the first Monday in May, we dial it up a few notches and remind everyone that it is “Melanoma Monday,” and we work with the media to help educate the public about skin cancer risks and what they can do to prevent it. (Our friends at The Dr. Oz Show have been great in supporting this effort.)
The results of a recent AAD survey show why this educational effort is critically important. Here’s just some of what we found:
- Almost three-quarters of respondents (74%) did not know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US.
- Only half (53%) knew how to examine their skin for signs of skin cancer.
- Thirty percent of respondents were either unsure or did not know skin cancer can be easily treated if caught early.
To make it easy for people to take action and join the fight against skin cancer, the AAD is launching the SPOT Skin Cancer initiative. We’re offering free resources on our website, www.SpotSkinCancer.org, including skin self-exam tools and an online locator to help you find free skin cancer screenings near you.
And there’s plenty that you, your family and your friends can do. Here are a few examples:
- Use sunscreen and/or UV-protective clothing and seek shade when outside. Whether on the beach, the golf course, or at the playground, sun exposure increases skin cancer risk. Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or greater and wearing a wide-brimmed hat can help reduce that risk.
- Check your partner for possible signs of skin cancer. Our spouses or significant others can be a great defense against skin cancer because they can often see what we can’t – for example, a spot on the back of your neck or on your lower leg. And, of course, they have that innate ability to persuade you to go see a dermatologist!
- Don’t go indoor tanning, which greatly increases the risk of melanoma. Consider safer alternatives, such as self-tanning sprays or lotions, and continue to use sunscreen.
This Melanoma Monday – and every day – we strongly urge you to take steps to reduce the risk of skin cancer. It’s easier than you think – and it might just help save your life.