Skin cancer is a common, significant concern for residents of sunny Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
Morgan Powell, Integrated Cancer Services outreach coordinator with WDH, said skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
“Risk factors for skin cancer include a light skin tone, eye color or hair color; tanning, a history of sunburns, particularly during childhood; a personal or family history of skin cancer; sun exposure during work or play; and certain types of moles,” Powell said.
“We recommend wearing sunscreen with at least a 15 SPF, staying out of the sun during the middle of the day, and covering up when out in the sun as good ways to reduce your skin cancer risk,” Powell said.
Powell noted there are several skin cancer warning signs. “When looking over the skin look for spots that are asymmetrical, have border irregularity, color variations and diameters of 6 millimeters or more,” she explained. “This is also known as the ABCD’s of skin cancer.”
“Of the three types of skin cancer, basal and squamous cell carcinoma are more common than melanoma and are highly treatable if caught early,” Powell said. “Melanoma is less common, but is a much faster growing type of cancer.” According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, melanoma affects roughly 130 people in Wyoming each year.
“Skin cancer is dangerous because it can be so easy to miss,” Powell said. “When it’s missed it can spread to other parts of the body, which makes it much more difficult to treat.”
“It may be summer now, and is certainly an important time to protect yourself from skin cancer. However, it’s a year round concern in Wyoming. Snow can reflect 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays,” Powell said. “Sunburns can also be a risk on cloudy or cool days because clouds block only about 20 percent of UV rays.”
# written by Kim Deti