Location, location, location is the mantra of the real estate profession. But it’s also a key concept for skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 40 to 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will eventually develop at least one skin cancer, which is by far the most common type of cancer.
If skin cancer is not on your mind as you head outside this summer, it should be. But what does location have to do with it?
- LOCATION – Where you live: The number one risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation. UV rays come primarily from the sun but also from tanning beds. If you live or visit a high-risk area, you can lower your risk by protecting yourself from the sun. Stay inside during the mid-day hours when UV rays are at their peak. Wear protective clothing and a broad-brimmed hat to protect your head, face and ears. Apply sun screen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
- LOCATION – Where your ancestors lived: If your ancestors came from a northern climate such as Ireland, Scotland or Scandinavia, you probably have fair skin and maybe freckles. You may complain that your skin tends to burn rather than tan. And you have a particularly higher risk of skin cancer if you live in a sunny place like Florida or Arizona for even a portion of the year.
- LOCATION – Where on your skin are cancers most likely? For non-melanoma skin cancers, risk is directly correlated with cumulative exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The more time you spend in the sun over your lifetime, the greater your risk. That’s why many skin cancers develop late in life in the sun-exposed area.
- LOCATION – How about melanoma? For melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, exposure to ultraviolet radiation is a risk factor, but in a less direct way. Frequent severe sunburns, particularly in youth, may pose a greater danger than cumulative exposure over a lifetime. As a result, the location of the cancer is not quite so easy to pinpoint.
All skin cancers, even melanoma, are curable if detected and removed at an early stage. So, it’s important to examine your skin on a regular basis and learn to recognize the signs. Experts say that while most of the lesions on your skin are harmless, the cancerous ones usually appear out of the blue and don’t quite fit in with the others.
If you’d like to talk to learn more about the importance of sun-safety and skin cancer prevention, contact your primary care provider. To find a doctor, visit viachristi.org/doctors.
- Manhattan: Via Christi Clinic Primary Care - 785-565-2900
- Pittsburg: Via Christi Mercy Clinic - 620-232-2890 or Via Christi Clinic (pediatrics) - 620-235-7612
- Wichita: Via Christi Clinic - visit viachristi.org/doctors or for more information, call 316-274-7222