suncareMany people think they look better with some color.

What they may not realize is that beloved color can lead to cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in America. Melanoma is the most serious form, causing 75% of all deaths from skin cancer. People of all ages are susceptible to melanoma – it can be caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or through indoor tanning.

Embassy Healthcare reminds you that up to 50% of people will develop skin cancer by the age of 65, with Caucasian men seeing the largest increase (almost 9% annually) of any group. More than 9,000 American men and women die of melanoma every year. It’s important to continue to protect your skin against cancer in the senior years, as melanoma can shorten an individual’s life expectancy by an average of 20 years.

Melanoma Risk Factors

There are a number of characteristics that increase your odds of developing melanoma, including:

  • Past sunburns: Experiencing a severe sunburn at any age can increase the odds of melanoma.
  • Fair skin: Those with fair skin tend to get a sunburn more easily. Caucasians with blonde or red hair and green or blue eyes are most at risk.
  • Age and gender: Before the age of 50, American women are more at risk for developing melanoma. After that, men are at a higher risk.
  • Moles: While the majority of moles do not turn into melanoma, your odds of developing the skin cancer increases the more moles you have.

Sun Protection 101

Although most sun protection tips seem like common sense, many people still believe the appeal of a darker complexion is worth the risk. Here are some ways you can lessen your odds of developing melanoma:

  • Avoid the sun as much as possible during 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when its UV rays are strongest
  • When you are out in the sun, use protection such as a wide-brimmed hat, UV-filtering sunglasses and long sleeves
  • Do not use tanning beds – More people develop skin cancer from indoor tanning than develop lung cancer from smoking, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation

Is it Melanoma?

The American Academy of Dermatology encourages people to conduct skin self-exams, looking out for the following ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetrical: If one half of a mole is different from the other, have a doctor look at it
  • Border: Irregular-shaped borders could signal melanoma
  • Color: Moles should be uniform in color. If not, call your physician to see if it’s cause for concern
  • Diameter: If the mole is about the size of a pencil eraser (6 mm), get it inspected
  • Evolving: Have it checked out if the mole is changing in size or shape, or different from other moles