July 18, 2021

Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Florida Residents

Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Florida Residents

Not surprisingly, Florida ranks second in the nation for the highest rate of skin cancer cases. About 8,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Florida every year, and that number is increasing throughout the Sunshine State. Fortunately, Floridians also have a significantly higher rate of screening for skin cancers. This saves lives! Find out what else you can do to help prevent skin cancer while enjoying the sun, sea, and other great outdoor activities in our great state.

About Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells, almost always caused when your skin is exposed to invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or an indoor tanning bed. It’s caused when mutations occur in your skin cells, causing them to grow out of control, forming a mass of cancer cells.

Types of Skin Cancer

The three major types of skin cancer are:

Basal cell carcinoma (cancer) is the most common type and is most likely to appear on your face or neck. It usually first appears as a:

  • Pearl-colored or waxy bump

  • Flat, flesh-colored, or brown scar-like sore, wound, or injury

  • Bleeding or scabbing sore that may heal and return.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type. It is most likely to occur on sun-exposed areas and can first appear as a:

  • Firm, red nodule

  • Flat sore or wound with a scaly, crusted surface

Melanoma is rare and occurs in only 1% of the population. However, it causes most of the skin cancer deaths in the United States.

Melanoma presents as a:

  • Large brownish spot with darker speckles

  • Moles that change in color, size, how it feels, or that bleeds

  • Small sore or wound with an irregular border may have colored red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black.

  • Painful sore that itches or burns

  • Dark sore or wound on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, mucous membranes in your mouth, nose, or genital area

Other, more rare skin cancers include:

  • Merkel cell skin cancer, which causes firm, shiny nodules on or just beneath the skin or hair follicles.

  • Kaposi sarcoma develops in the skin’s blood vessels and presents as red or purple patches on the skin. It mainly occurs in people with AIDS or a weakened immune system.

  • Sebaceous gland carcinoma is a rare, aggressive cancer that starts in the skin’s oil glands.

Who is at Risk for Skin Cancer?

Really everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer. But there are some things that tend to lead to skin cancer more often. Some of these you can help, and some you can’t, but they’re still important to be aware of.

Your age. Older people are much more likely to have a skin cancer diagnosis. Fortunately, several statewide awareness campaigns in Florida have been successful in helping people become aware of skin cancer dangers. Older Floridians have the highest rates of skin cancer screening when compared to other regions of the United States.

Males are diagnosed with skin cancer more than 1.5 times more often than women.

People who don’t use sunscreen every day. Daily SPF 15 or higher sunscreen use can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40%. Especially in Florida, the rays coming in through your car window can still cause skin damage.

People who get sunburned. Having five or more sunburns during your lifetime doubles your risk for melanoma. Most skin cancers (90%) are due to sun exposure. Skin damage from the sun ages your skin, causing lines, wrinkles, and dark age spots. Called photoaging, it can be reduced with the daily use of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Users of tanning beds or other indoor tanning methods. Indoor tanning devices can emit UV radiation up to 15 times higher than sunshine at peak intensity. In fact, more people develop skin cancer due to indoor tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.

People who don’t check their skin once a month. It’s important to do a monthly check of all your skin, including unexposed areas such as soles of your feet, palms of your hands, toenail and fingernail beds, and genital areas. Once a year, you should get a full-body exam from your doctor or dermatologist.

People with fair skin. Although anyone of any skin color can get skin cancer, those with less pigment (melanin) in their skin have less protection from UV damage. Skin damage is more likely if you have blonde or red hair, light-colored eyes, and if you easily freckle or sunburn.

People who have a lot of moles. Moles that are larger than normal and have irregular edges are more likely to become cancerous. Rough, scaly patches of skin, called actinic keratoses, also increase your skin cancer risk. They can be brown to dark pink in color and are more common on the face, head, and hands of fair-skinned people.

Family history of skin cancer, especially your immediate family members, or if you’ve previously had skin cancer increases your risk.

Weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS or who are taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant.

Exposure to radiation treatment can increase your risk.

9 Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Florida Residents

The Florida sun is quite strong, especially during the summer. Whether you’re a year-round Floridian or just here for the winter, these tips can help you protect your skin and slow the development of skin cancer.

1. Check the time of day before heading into the sun.

Avoid the sun at midday – the hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for sun exposure. Teach children the shadow rule: If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are too strong. Find shade or go inside.

2. Guard against reflective sun exposure.

Even if you’re sitting under an umbrella, be aware of the sun reflecting up on you. This happens a lot when near water and sand. Keep sunscreen on even when you’re in the shade.

3. Apply sunscreen regularly while outside.

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Water-resistant sunscreens are important if you’re sweating a lot or around water. The sun protection factor (SPF) should be 15 to 30. Be sure to apply about two tablespoons to all exposed skin a half hour before going outdoors. Don’t forget your face, ears, hands, and lips. Reapply every two hours you’re in the sun and after you exit the water. Sunscreen lotions work by reflecting, scattering, or absorbing UV rays. Remember that sun damage can happen on cool, cloudy, or hazy days too.

Read our blog: Is Sunscreen Enough to Prevent Skin Cancer?

4. Limit sun exposure, any time of day.

Sun damage can happen in as little as 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen. Be sure you have sunscreen on if you’re going to be outside for more than a few minutes.

5. Wear protective clothing.

Wear long sleeves and long pants. This sounds terrible during a Florida summer, but it can really help protect your skin, especially if you have risk factors. Dark clothing with tightly woven fabric blocks more sun than white or loosely woven fabrics.

6. Wear a hat.

Wide-brims, darker colors, and tightly woven fabrics provide the most protection for your face and scalp where it’s common to develop skin cancer. Straw hats allow UV rays to come through the holes.

7. Wear sunglasses.

Choose large, wraparound sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Your eyes and the skin around them need protection.

8. Keep babies younger than six months out of the sun.

They should remain completely covered and in the shade to protect their sensitive skin. Sunscreen is not recommended for children under six months.

9. Check that your medications won’t make you more sensitive to the sun.

Certain health conditions and taking some medications can place you at higher risk of UV damage. These include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antifungals, antihistamines, blood pressure meds, or chemotherapy drugs.

The Cancer Care Centers of Brevard treats skin cancer patients at its locations in Melbourne, Merritt Island, Palm Bay, and Rockledge. Request a consultation with our specialists if you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer.

Categories: Skin Cancer