By Jena Williams

1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetimes.

*Image from American Academy of Dermatology’s infographic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Although it can often be eradicated if caught and treated early, these success rates are dependent on just that – catch and treat. But more than simply catching and treating, we hope to prevent, which is why May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. It is time that we begin to take the risk of skin cancer seriously.

We often doubt how harmful the sun’s rays are. Or we acknowledge the danger but are willing to risk it because wearing sunscreen is for kids or we want the healthy glow of tanned skin. But is tanned skin really healthy? Consider that the first definition of tanning in the free dictionary is “the process or art of converting hides or skins into leather,” so I guess if leather is your goal. . .

Need more convincing? Consider the photo that went viral of the truck driver whose face aged drastically on the left side due to 28 years of truck driving? Is tanned skin today worth wrinkles tomorrow? UV radiation from both the sun and tanning beds does damage us.

Do those of you who live in rainy Washington think you are safe? Think again. We actually have the 5th highest rate of melanoma in the U.S.

Protect yourself and your family by recognizing the signs of skin cancer and takes steps to prevent it:

  • Use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or greater year-round and higher if you know you’ll have increased sun exposure. Don’t forget neck, ears and lips.
  • Wear long sleeves and a wide brimmed hat in the sun.
  • Avoid mid-day exposures when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Check your skin often for signs of change.

This link to WebMD has good educational photos to help: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-key-statistics.

For more info:

American Academy of Dermatology’s How to Spot Skin Cancer infographic: http://www.aad.org/File%20Library/Global%20navigation/For%20the%20public/SPOT/How_to_SPOT-Skin_Cancer_Infographic.pdf

Don’t fry- preventing skin cancer infographic: http://www.cancer.org/research/infographicgallery/skin-cancer-prevention

The truth about tanning infographic: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/infographic.htm

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month: http://healthfinder.gov/NHO/MayToolkit2.aspx

Recognizing skin cancer: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-key-statistics

Facts about skin cancer in Washington: http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/wa_facts_web.pdf

American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-key-statistics

The New England Journal of Medicine report on truck driver: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMicm1104059