May the force of skin protection be with you

Dr. Wayne Kye

Listen up, guys: Your sister or teen daughter aren’t the only ones at risk for skin cancer. An estimated 87,110 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma this year, with 4,900 cases expected in New York state, alone. But did you know that more than half of those cases will be men? Males age 50 and older are at increased risk of skin cancer, and by age 65, skin cancer rates in men are double that of women.

May is skin cancer awareness month, so now is a good time to educate yourself and your loved ones about skin cancer prevention.

Even though you may not be sunbathing by the pool or beach, you probably do spend a significant amount of time outdoors — playing sports or attending sporting events, caring for the yard or home, or perhaps doing your job — and it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re not always using sunscreen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 14 percent of men applied sunscreen when outside for more than an hour. While many women receive some daily skin protection from moisturizers and makeup that contain SPF, most men do not. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, older men are the least likely to perform regular self-exams or visit a dermatologist.

It is never too late to change our habits and reduce our risk of skin cancer. Avoid the sun when its rays are most dangerous, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If that’s not possible, apply an ounce (a palm-full) of sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and UVA and UVB protection 20 minutes before going outside, then reapply every two hours. Wear sunglasses that absorb UV radiation, clothing made of tightly-woven material and a hat. Remember, even on cloudy or cool days, you need to protect your skin.

You should also have a health care professional examine your skin, annually, and see your doctor if you have any moles that follow the ABCDE rule (asymmetry, border irregularity, color not uniform, diameter greater than 6 mm or evolving size, shape or color).

Everyone is at risk of skin cancer, regardless of age, race or gender, but it is often preventable. Make sure you and your loved ones are properly protected before you head outside this summer and throughout the year. To learn more about skin cancer prevention, risk factors and symptoms, visit www.preventcancer.org/skincancer.

Dr. Wayne Kye is a member of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program and the spouse of U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens). Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, CDC and the American Academy of Dermatology.

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