Lucky you live Hawaii! We’re fortunate to have sunny weather, wonderful trade winds, and the ocean for our backyard all year round.
But living in this tropical paradise also means we have to be aware of something very serious: skin cancer. One in five people will develop skin cancer before the age of 70 and more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
Here are three things you need to know about skin cancer:
- It’s the most prevalent form of cancer worldwide.
- Anybody can get it.
- You can prevent it.
“There are three major types of skin cancer,” says Todd Bessinger, M.D., of the Hawaii Dermatology Centers. “We divide them into melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, and non-melanoma, which rarely spreads to the rest of the body.”
- “Basal cell carcinoma is the most common non-melanoma skin cancer,” he says, “usually starting as a slow-growing, pearly bump on an area regularly exposed to the sun. It can bleed easily. While it doesn’t usually spread to other parts of your body, you’ll still want to get it treated.”
- Squamous cell carcinoma (also non-melanoma) is the second-most common skin cancer, Dr. Bessinger says. It usually starts as a growing bump with a rough, scaly surface. If it’s treated early, it usually doesn’t spread to other parts of the body.
- Malignant melanoma, however, can spread to other parts of the body, “particularly the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, and brain,” Dr. Bessinger says. Melanoma start as small, irregularly shaped, colored bumps or flat areas.
Who’s most at risk? Dr. Bessinger says, “There’s a myth that only people who are fair skinned and have been overexposed to the sun are at risk. While it’s true that these individuals are at highest risk, every skin color can develop skin cancer.”
Skin cancer can be deadly. Hawaii astronaut Lacy Veach died at age 51 from skin cancer. Bob Marley died at age 36. And, on average, at least two people die of skin cancer every hour.
Dr. Bessinger says to take the possibility of skin cancer seriously. He advises you to:
- Limit your sun exposure.
- Use sunscreen that has titanium or zinc oxide as active ingredients.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Be vigilant in examining for any changes on your skin, even in places that don’t get exposed to the sun.
- See a dermatologist immediately if you notice anything different or unusual.
With the right prevention, we can enjoy our time in the sun and say, “Lucky we live Hawaii!”