Excessive exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can result
in a painful sunburn, but can also lead to other serious health problems,
including melanoma, cataracts, premature aging of the skin, and immune
system suppression. Overexposure to the sun appears to be the most
important environmental factor in the development of skin cancers
and other sun-related health problems, making these highly preventable.
Skin cancer has increased in the United States: more than one million
new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in 1998. The incidence
of malignant melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer,
doubled among whites between 1973 and 1994. One in five Americans
will get some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Furthermore,
melanoma is more common than any non-skin cancer among people between
25 and 29 years old. One blistering sunburn could double one's risk
of developing melanoma.
The three major types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous
cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas can
cause substantial illness and, untreated, can cause considerable damage
and disfigurement. If detected and treated early, however, these carcinomas
have a cure rate of more than 95%. Malignant melanoma causes more
than 75% of all deaths from skin cancer. Malignant melanoma diagnosed
at an early stage usually can be cured, whereas when diagnosed at
a late stage is more likely to spread and cause death.
People can take many simple steps to plan ahead and protect themselves
from the sun's UV rays. These options are important to remember all
year round and during all outdoor activities, and not just when at
the pool or beach.
Be SUN SAFE: