FROM THE DESK OF NASSAU COUNTY CLERK MAUREEN O'CONNELL
MAY IS MELANOMA SKIN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
As a registered nurse and the former ranking
member of the New York State Assembly Health Committee, I would
like to share with you some important information about skin cancer
from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. With the start of
the summer season and all the fun in the sun it brings, it is easy
to forget that skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer
affecting 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 be reduced by taking simple
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 may be detected with the "ABCD rule":
- Asymmetry: One half of a spot, mole or birthmark
does not match the other half.
- Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched
- Color: The color is not the same all over or
has an irregular pattern and may include shades of brown or black,
or patches of red, pink, white or blue.
- Diameter: Typical moles
are usually less than ¼ inch
across (the size of a pencil eraser). Melanomas can be smaller
but are often larger than ¼ inch.
Some melanomas do not fit these “rules” so
it is important to consult your doctor about anything you are unsure
How to Protect Yourself
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.
- 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 sunscreens will protect you for about 40 minutes
on average. Read the instructions before applying any product.
Generally, you should 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 UVA and UVB radiation. Those that
purpose" or "meets ANSI UV requirements" block at
least 99 percent. Cosmetic lenses generally block 70 percent.