As you may have noticed from the icon on our cover, May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. As people who spend the majority of their workday outdoors, you are highly susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun, and must be vigilant about protecting your skin.
The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention estimates that there are over 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the U.S. each year – making it the most common form of cancer in the country. Of these cases, 76,520 will be malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Fortunately, all forms of skin cancer, even melanoma, can be cured when detected early. (Melanoma, when detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes, has a 99 percent 5-year survival rate.) A once-a-month self-examination is a great tool to monitor your skin and stay on top of any suspicious changes. Visit the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website (www.skincan cer.org) for step-by-step instructions on performing a thorough self-exam.
While you can’t avoid the sun completely, there are a number of simple steps you can take to protect against dangerous UV rays. To help prevent skin cancer, the Skin Cancer Foundation offers the following suggestions:
- Long-sleeved, closely woven shirts and long trousers provide the best protection.
- Avoid clothes that you can see light through. If light is getting through, ultraviolet radiation is getting through as well.
- A collar will protect the skin on the back of the neck.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses. Broad-brimmed hats are best. The brim should be at least 3 inches wide.
- If a lot of bending is required, have a flap on the back of the hat, which will keep the sun off the back of the neck. Hardhats can have a flap or extra brim fitted to them.
- Use sunglasses or safety glasses that filter out UV rays.
- Use an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen before going outdoors. Use a water-resistant sunscreen, and reapply every two hours. If sweating freely, reapply more often.
- Make sure the face, lips, neck, ears, arms and back of the hands are protected.