The most common form of cancer in the US is skin cancer. The Center for Disease Control has made great strides in bringing attention to this disease through education: “When in the sun, seek shade, cover up, get a hat, wear sunglasses, and use sunscreen”.
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, and melanoma. While the first two are curable, melanoma is more dangerous.
Melanoma skin cancer is caused typically—65%-90% of cases—by ultraviolet light, which is a form of radiation immolating from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps. These light rays are able to infiltrate and change skin cells.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. UV rays can penetrate and change skin cells according to the CDC.
Since 1975, the death rate of melanoma in Florida has practically doubled since 1975 among people over 50 years of age.
Florida Skin Cancer Numbers
The most recent statistics available from the CDC (2009) reveals the following Florida Skin Cancer data:
- Melanoma skin cancer accounts for roughly 75% of all skin cancer deaths.
- Nearly 5,000 new cases of melanoma per year are diagnosed.
- There has been serious increase in the rates of melanoma diagnoses: 74% increase among white males and 43% among white females.
- The highest death rate was in St. Johns County, which was 96% higher than the national average from 2002-2006.
- Jefferson County made it on the national map for having the 7th highest rate of melanoma diagnoses among all counties nationwide, which was 135% above the national average from 2002–2006.
Fortunately, most cases of skin cancer are found early and stopped before they spread to other areas. The largest challenges for treatment are in cases where melanoma has spread to other organs.
Treatments are both safe and effective for localized basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Small tumors can be removed surgically.
- Local excision surgery removes the melanoma as well as a small amount of the tissue around it.
- When more of the tissue around it is removed, it is called a wide local excision. At this time, the surgeon may also remove the lymph nodes.
- Lymph node dissection, also called lymphadenectomy, is surgery to remove lymph nodes to check for cancer cells. This type of surgery is also done to remove lymph nodes already diagnosed as cancerous.
- A sentinel lymph node biopsy removes the first lymph node from the tumor. When no cancer cells are present in this lymph node, you may not require having other lymph nodes removed.
Unfortunately, a prior diagnosis of skin cancer means you are at risk for getting it again. Since about 20% of skin cancer recurs, it is important for you to get annual checkups.
Florida is all about fun in the sun, and that doesn’t have to change. Just do what the CDC teaches: “When in the sun, seek shade, cover up, get a hat, wear sunglasses, and use sunscreen.”