A new American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) survey shows that despite skin cancer being the most common cancer in the U.S., only one-third of adults are concerned about developing the disease, even though nearly 70 percent say they have at least one risk factor for skin cancer. The survey found that 49 percent were more worried about avoiding sunburn than preventing skin cancer; 32 percent were more worried about wrinkles; and 25 percent said they got a sunburn last year.
“Many people do not take skin cancer seriously, or perhaps believe skin cancer won’t happen to them,” says board-certified dermatologist Robert T. Brodell, MD, FAAD, professor and founding chair of the department of dermatology and professor of pathology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “Yet, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every day.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says anyone can get skin cancer. Those at greater risk are those with lighter natural skin color; skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun; those with blue or green eyes, and blonde or red hair; individuals with more than 50 moles; and having a family history or personal history of skin cancer. While some risk factors can’t be controlled, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer and melanoma, according to Dr. Brodell.
Research shows the incidence of skin cancer among non-Hispanic white people is almost 30 times higher than that among non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islander individuals. While not as common among people of color, skin cancer is still a risk. Additionally, skin cancer in patients of color is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage, when it is more difficult to treat.
“Keeping risk factors in mind along with practicing safe sun — such as seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, and applying sunscreen — is critically important,” says Dr. Brodell, emphasizing that skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early. Warning signs prompting a visit to a board-certified dermatologist include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or other skin lesion; a new growth on the skin; a sore that doesn’t heal; spots on the skin that are different from the others; or anything changing, itching or bleeding.
Dermatologists recommend that we all know the ABCDEs of melanoma:
A is for Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
B is for Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
C is for Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red, or blue.
D is for Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters, or about the size of a pencil eraser, when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
E is for Evolving: The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
Learn more about sun protection, skin cancer prevention, and test your skin cancer knowledge via a short quiz online at PracticeSafeSun.org. To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit www.aad.org/findaderm