What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, and the leading cause of death from skin disease. Melanoma can spread very rapidly. Although it is less common than other types of skin cancer, the rate of melanoma is steadily increasing.
The development of melanoma is related to sun exposure or ultraviolet radiation, particularly among people with fair skin, blue or green eyes, and red or blond hair. The risk of developing melanoma increases with age. However, the disease also frequently affects young, otherwise healthy people.
Risks for melanoma include the following:
- Living in sunny climates or at high altitudes
- Long-term exposure to high levels of strong sunlight, because of a job or other activities
- One or more blistering sunburns during childhood
- Use of tanning devices
Unprotected sun exposure is dangerous
Sunlight consists of ultraviolet (UV) rays, as well as related rays such as UVA, UVB, and UVC.
- UVA rays are present throughout the day and are the most important cause of premature aging of the skin. In addition, UVA rays are responsible for photosensitivity reactions and also contribute to skin cancer.
- UVB rays are most intense from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and are most responsible for sunburn and skin cancer development.
- UVC rays are filtered by the ozone layer and do not reach the earth’s surface.
When to apply sunscreen
- Apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before being in the sun (for best results) so that it can be absorbed by the skin and less likely to wash off when you perspire.
- Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or strenuous exercise.
- Apply sunscreen often throughout the day if you work outdoors, and wear hats and protective clothing.
How to apply sunscreen
- Shake well before use to mix particles that might be clumped up in the container. Consider using the new spray-on or stick types of sunscreen.
- Be sure to apply enough sunscreen. As a rule of thumb, use an ounce (a handful) to cover your entire body.
- Use on all parts of your skin exposed to the sun, including the ears, back, shoulders, and the back of the knees and legs.
- Apply thickly and thoroughly.
- Be careful when applying sunscreen around the eyes.
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