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In The Know: Skin Cancer Facts and How You Can Protect Yourself

Math and Cancer

Although there are numerous types of cancer, the definition is the same - a growth caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. 

Each year, more than:

  • 70,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer (40,000 men and 30,000 women).
  • 48,000 Americans are diagnosed with an early form of basal cell skin cancer.
  • 2 million Americans are treated for basal cell skin cancer or squamous cell skin cancer.

The Basics

The skin is the largest organ of our body. Although it's delicate, our skin works hard to combat the elements working against it. 

Our skin:

  • Protects from bacteria entering our body.
  • Helps regulate our body temperature.
  • Enables us to feel the sensations of touch and temperature.
  • Covers our internal organs and protects them from injury.

Skin cancer forms in the tissues of the dermis and there are several types. The most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell cancer. Although these cancers are serious, the most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma.

Each year, 70,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer.

Melanoma skin cancer

This skin cancer forms in melanocytes (skin cells that make pigment) and can occur on any skin surface. In men, it's often found on the head, neck, or back. In women, it's often found on the lower legs or back. 

Basal cell skin cancer

This skin cancer forms in the lower part of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) and is typically found in areas exposed to the sun. It's commonly found on the face and is the most common type of skin cancer among people with fair skin. 

Squamous cell cancer

This skin cancer forms on squamous cells (flat cells that form the surface of the skin). It's usually found in places that are not exposed to the sun, such as legs or feet and is the most common type of skin cancer among people with dark skin.

Looking at Numbers

In a recent study by the American Cancer Society, the overall number of cancer incidences and death rates has decreased. However, in the past 30 years melanoma cancer incidents have increased rapidly. Most recently the increases have occurred among young white women between the ages of 15 - 39 years (3% per year since 1992) and white adults 65 years and older (5% per year for men since 1985 and 4% per year for women). Melanoma skin cancer primarily affects white adults and the occurrence rate for whites is ten time higher than in blacks. Among whites, rates are more than 50% higher in men than in women. 

Melanoma is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths and an estimated 8,790 deaths in the U.S. annually. Of those deaths, two-thirds are men.

Protect Yourself

You don't need to cutout sunlight or the outdoors to lower your risk of skin cancer. The best way to decrease your risks of skin cancer is education and practicing sun safety. Here are some helpful tips: 
Avoid the following:

  • Long exposure to intense sunlight, especially between 10 AM - 4 PM.
  • UV tanning booths or sun lamps.


Use the following:

  • A broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen (at least SPF 15) daily. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher).
  • The SunBuddy Lotion Applicator to help you apply sunscreen to your back and to other hard to reach areas of your body.
  • Cover up with comfortable clothes made of tightly woven fabrics that you cannot see through when held up to a light.
  • A wide-brimmed hat or cap (protect exposed and unexposed areas with sunscreen)
  • Sunglasses with at least a 99% UV absorption rate.


General guidelines:

  • Apply at least one ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming, towel-drying or sweating.
  • UV rays travel through clouds, so protect your skin on cloudy and overcast days.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies six months and older.