Skin cancer affects people of every age, gender, and ethnicity. It's a disease that one in five Americans will develop by the time they turn 70. Despite an overall increase in awareness and education, nonmelanoma skin cancer rates are still on the rise.
Luckily, we already have the knowledge base necessary to protect ourselves. Now, it’s just a matter of actively seeking out that protection.
What Are the Nonmelanomas?
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, followed by squamous cell carcinoma. Both are types of nonmelanoma cancers. BCCs do not usually metastasize, but some can be aggressive, often growing large and causing disfiguration. SCCs, on the other hand, can metastasize and are most likely to spread to lymph nodes (or beyond) when not treated early.
In the United States, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined. Specifically, 4.3 million people are diagnosed with BCC, and more than 1 million people are diagnosed with SCC annually. Furthermore, roughly 90 percent of all nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. And unfortunately, more than 15,000 people in the U.S. die from SCCs every year.
These alarming statistics make one thing clear – sun protection is more important than ever.
Why You Should Avoid Tanning Beds
You may have heard this before, but skin cancer is often referred to as a “lifestyle disease.” This means that the greatest risk factors are directly associated with a specific lack of protection. In other words, this disease is preventable – as long as you take the right precautions.
One of the easiest risks to avoid when it comes to skin cancer is UV exposure from tanning beds. Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year. And in 2016, the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared UV radiation (from the sun and artificial sources) to be a known carcinogen.
This means that the tanning beds offered in salons, gyms, and spas fall under the same category as harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and arsenic. The American Academy of Dermatology Association reports that “even one indoor tanning session can increase users’ risk of developing melanoma by 20 percent, squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent, and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent.”
How to Stay Safe in the Sun
By taking the right precautions every time you go outside, you can prevent life-altering skin cancers like basal and squamous cell carcinomas. And luckily, there are many ways to stay safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays. For example, daily use of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher has been shown to reduce the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by roughly 40 percent.
Another great way to avoid UV exposure is by outfitting yourself in sun-protective clothing. By choosing fabrics with a UPF of 50 or more, you can protect your skin from 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Plus, this form of protection never rubs or washes off – so you can stay safe all day long!