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October 19th, 2019

sun skinCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times


Summer is often the time for fun in the sun and many outdoor activities. Among all the fun, however, there are some precautions that must be taken. 

More than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were treated in more than 3.3 million people in the U.S. in 2012, according to, and more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined

“The main risk for skin cancer, whether it’s melanoma or non-melanoma, is sun exposure. So the main recommendation especially in the summer is to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun,” Dr. Jose Velasco with the Central Care Cancer Center said. “If that’s unavoidable, be sure and use sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher and be sure to reapply that several times during the day. And if sunscreen isn’t an option, using a wide-brimmed sun hat is also highly recommended because we see a lot of people who have skin cancer on their ears because those areas are neglected. Also using long-sleeved shirts and avoiding being out during the hottest times of the day, which is typically 10 a.m. to noon and then again at around 4 p.m., because those are the times the sun will be at its worst.”

With non-melanoma cases, according to, the diagnosis and treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers in the U.S. increased by 77 percent between 1994 and 2014, and basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, with an estimated 4.3 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year resulting in more than 3,000 deaths. With melanoma cases, continued, one person dies of melanoma every hour and an estimated 178,560 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone. Of those, 87,290 cases will be non-invasive and 91,270 cases will be invasive. 

So what makes the summer such a harsh time of the year for skin?

“Basically it’s because of the sun. Most of the melanomas or non-melanomas aren’t something that happens just all of a sudden, it’s a result of accumulation and repeated damage to the skin cells,” Velasco said. “The reason for the extra precautions during the summer is because of the sun, it’s much stronger and the UV rays are stronger. There are also not as many clouds in the sky to diminish exposure so that risk is higher during the summer. The non-melanoma skin cancers are often related to too much sun exposure while melanoma skin cancers can also appear in places that aren’t exposed to the sun so it’s important to do everything you can to minimize your risk as much as you can.”

Velasco added it is especially important for children to be protected. 

“While children aren’t necessarily more prone to skin cancer coming up, it’s about that accumulation of sun exposure,” Velasco said. “When you’re younger you don’t worry about that and don’t think you’ll get melanoma but it’s important for parents to make sure their children use their sunscreen and reapply it after being in the water at certain intervals. The younger you start being exposed unprotected to the sun, the more damage can accumulate and the bigger the risk is there for developing skin cancer.”

Even with all the precautions people can take to minimize their risk of developing skin cancer, they cannot prevent it 100 percent and Velasco gave some advice for if an abnormality is noticed. 

“If you notice something, the most important thing first of all is to keep an eye on it and not let it go.  If it’s something you’re concerned about, go ahead and ask your primary doctor or dermatologist for their thoughts and advice,” Velasco said. “Then if you can’t visit a doctor right away, still keep an eye on it and if you see it growing rapidly or something like that or starts having irregular borders or changing color, visit us right away to get checked out. There are a few demographics more prone to melanoma skin cancers and those are white males older than 50 years old, melanoma is inherited in about 12 percent of cases, people with more moles or other lesions, those who have received prior radiation therapy for whatever reason, those with compromised immune systems. All of those need to take care to limit their sun exposure. Anyone in the medical field can give their opinions on this and can help in detecting if something is going on. If you have questions, ask your medical provider during your yearly physical or during a visit. Earlier detection can help us with treatment and it can be very easy.”

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