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O’CONNELL: MAY IS MELANOMA AWARENESS MONTH

Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell reminds residents that May is Melanoma Awareness Month.  Skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer effecting more than 1 million Americans each year.  Most of the time, skin cancer is caused by too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, and the risk can also be increased by the use of artificial sources such as tanning booths and sunlamps.  As a registered nurse and the former ranking member of the New York State Assembly Health Committee, County Clerk O’Connell is pleased to share this important information from the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute on skin cancer to better inform residents.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are two main types of skin cancer - non-melanomas and melanomas. Non-melanomas are the most common type and include squamous cell and basal cell cancers. Non-melanomas rarely spread to other parts of the body, but they can cause scarring.

Melanoma is much more serious than non-melanoma cancers. While typically curable in its early stages, it is much more likely to spread to other parts of your body than non-melanomas.

Melanomas can be detected with the "ABCD rule":

  • Asymmetry: Both halves of a mole or birthmark do not match.
  • Border: The edges are irregular and often ragged-looking.
  • Color: The color is not the same allover and can include shades of brown or black, with patches of red, white or blue.
  • Diameter: The area is larger than Y4 inch and growing.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Limit sun exposure. UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you don't know how strong the sun is, you can do a "shadow test." If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun's rays are strongest. Remember that UV rays pass through water, too. Sand and snow increase your UV exposure because they reflect sunlight.
  • Cover up. Long-sleeved shirts, pants and long skirts provide the most protection, and darker colors block more UV rays than light. Choose fabric with a tighter weave for more protection. If you can see light through a fabric, it probably won't block UV rays.
  • Don't forget your hat. The best hat is one with a 2 or 3-inch brim all around. This protects sensitive facial areas.
  • Sunscreen. Look for a product with 15 or higher sun protection factor (SPF) and apply it regularly. The higher the number, the better you are protected. "Broad spectrum" sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB rays. Waterproof sunscreens are usually effective for about 80 minutes, even if you are swimming or sweating. Water-resistant sun- screens will protect you for about 40 minutes on average.  Read the instructions before applying any product. Generally, you will apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outside. About a palmful typically can cover the arms, legs, neck and face of an average adult. Reapply every 2 hours - more if you are swimming or sweating. Use sunscreen lip balm as well.
  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses. Sunglasses should block 99- 100 percent of UV A and UVB radiation. Those that say "special purpose" or "meets ANSI UV requirements" block at least 99 percent. Cosmetic lenses generally block 70 percent.
Avoid tanning booths and sunlamps. Both of these kinds of devices give off UVA and UVB rays and put you at risk for skin cancer.