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May is Melanoma Awareness Month

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May 2017

May is Melanoma Awareness Month

Skin cancer is when the cells in the skin grow out of control.  The most common types of skin cancer — basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — are often curable, although they can be expensive and cause long-term health issues.  Melanoma is a more dangerous form of skin cancer and can cause death if it is not treated early.  Approximately 9,000 people die each year of Melanoma.  Luckily, skin cancer is preventable.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

The majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light sources.  UV light can come from the sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps.  Most people are exposed to two types of UV rays: UV-A rays are the most common kind of light from the sun and can damage tissue which increases the risk of skin cancer.  AV-B rays help produce vitamin D, but too much can still cause damage. The UV Index can help you know when it is safest to be outside.

How to Prevent Skin Cancer:

  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection. Apply every two hours, even on cloudy or cooler days.
    • Tip: many moisturizers contain sunscreen- try to wear something with SPF 15 or higher every day.
  • Wear protective clothing
    • Hats with a wide brim
    • Sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays
    • Clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • Stay in the shade when the sun is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4.p.m.).
  • Avoid indoor tanning devices that use UV radiation.
  • What about vitamin D? The 2015 -2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods, fortified foods and, if necessary, dietary supplements. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about meeting your recommended vitamin D levels.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.

Early Detection is Prevention:

  • Watch for any changes on your skin- new growths, sores, or changes in a mole. Talk to your doctor about any concerns.
  • Signs of melanoma include asymmetrical moles or spots, jagged borders, uneven color, spots larger than the size of a pea, or any recent changes to an existing mole or spot.

Who is at Risk?

Anyone can potentially develop skin cancer, but risk is greater for people:

  • With lighter skin
  • Who burn easily
  • With a family history of skin cancer
  • With a personal history of skin cancer
  • Who are exposed to the sun frequently
  • Who have a history of sunburns
  • Who have a history of indoor tanning
  • Who have blue or green eyes, and blonde or red hair
  • Who have certain types or a large number of moles

For more information contact the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Office of Health Education at (631) 853-3162, or visit the American Cancer Society’s “Be Safe in the Sun” page at, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention at National Council on Skin Care Prevention, or the Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Campaign at

Sent on behalf of Agnes Hahn, RN Supervisor, Health Services Office.

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