Florida Is #2 for Melanoma in the U.S: Your Skin in the Sunshine State and What You Need to Know

OurSeniors.net-Florida Is #2 for Melanoma in the U.S: Your Skin in the Sunshine State and What You Need to Know

Did you know that Florida is the second highest-ranking state in the U.S. for new melanoma cases? At least 7,650 people are expected to die from Melanoma in the U.S. annually according to the American Cancer Society and the unfortunate thing is that in Florida, about 600 people alone die from it, each year. With the death rate of melanomas coming in at 2.5 for every 100,000, people may wonder what actually raises the risk of skin cancer development and what can be done to promote prevention and awareness throughout Florida.

What Is Melanoma Exactly?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer and it’s considered to be the most serious form of skin cancer and the most invasive. The way this type of cancer works is when the cells in your body that produce pigment (the cells that give your skin its color), those cells become cancerous and it starts in the melanocytes which are melanin-forming cells. 

Typically, this type of cancer will appear as a new mole or growth that is either larger than 6mm in size (the size of an eraser on a pencil) or that has changed its color or shape over time. Most often, it appears as a black, tan, or brown color on the skin, but melanoma can also appear in other colors like red or pink. To be clear, having one or two moles that are changing in color or size isn’t necessarily cause for concern. 

There are lots of reasons why a mole might change, including age, medication usage, and tanning indoors and outdoors. But if you notice a change in any mole you have, you should always have it checked out by your doctor as a way to be cautious and proactive. Melanoma is very curable when caught early and this form of cancer can become life-threatening within as short a time as six weeks so, it’s important to pay attention to any changes in your skin.

Risk Factors for Melanoma

There are a variety of risk factors that put people at a higher risk for melanoma. A few of them are;

  • A previous skin cancer diagnosis
  • Excessive tanning or exposure to UV light in general
  • Weak immune system
  • Consistent sunburn
  • Family history of melanoma

Also, people who have fair skin, red hair, or those with Celtic ancestry (at high risk for cutaneous melanoma), light-colored eyes, or blonde hair are at the highest risk for melanoma. While this is true, everyone’s skin is susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun. One important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be in the sun to be at risk. Ultraviolet light, or UV, is present not only when you’re outside, but also when you’re inside. 

More than 90% of UV light can still pass through light cloud coverage and even 50% of UV rays can pass through windows which are a top cause of premature aging of the skin, so wearing sunscreen and protective clothing is important year-round when appropriate, even when it’s cloudy.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Melanoma

The best way to reduce your risk of developing melanoma is to avoid sun exposure either by staying out of the sun altogether or by wearing protective garments along with some type of sunscreen. Keep in mind that sunscreen doesn’t have to be worn when the sun is at its highest point or beaming directly onto your skin.

Here are a few tips you can use;

Stay Out of the Sun– About half of the UV rays during the day are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so plan accordingly and try to stay indoors during that time or take protective measures. If you’re a senior living in Florida, you need to pay close attention to this due to the consistently sunny weather.

If you have to be outside, be sure to wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and a “broad spectrum” label to protect your skin. Technically, if you’re using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and on a daily basis you’ll reduce your risk of melanoma development by at least 50%. 

However, SPF 30 will protect you from about 96.7% of UVB rays and if you use an SPF 50 product, you can boost your protection to 98%. It gives into the saying; “the more, the better”.

Wear Sunscreen– Put it on every day, even on cloudy days. There are hand creams, hand sanitizers, and body lotions with sunscreen in them so there are multiple forms of skin protection that you can use to limit your exposure. Make sunscreen a daily part of your skincare routine. There are even makeup products that contain sunscreen so there are always ways to adjust your routines to cater to your wellness and skin protection.

Check Your Moles if You Have Them– Look for new moles or growths on your skin and pay attention to any existing moles you may have. Keep an eye on how many you have, the shape and color of them as well as the size and if any of them present with itchiness, soreness, or bleeding. If you notice any of these things, have them examined by your doctor right away.

Why Does Florida Have Such a High Risk?

Being over-exposed to UVA and UVB rays presents the most risk for melanoma. This means the sun and even things like tanning are highly-responsible for putting people at such a high risk. Did you know that your risk for melanoma increases to 75% if you use tanning beds? California, New York, and Florida have the highest number of tanning salons in the country and at least 7.8 million adults use them every year.

The unfortunate thing with this is that despite the obvious health risks, according to the Miami New Times, in the state of Florida there is one tanning salon for every 15,113 people across the state. The machines are actually responsible for more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer, many of which may come from Florida.

A variety of things can be harmful to your skin, especially activities that are popular if you’re a senior living in Florida such as boating, swimming, or relaxing on the beach. You should know that even the reflection of sunlight from water can cause sunburn and often makes the sun’s rays stronger.

Staying Safe While Enjoying Florida Weather

If you’re a senior living in Florida, you need to stay aware of exposure to the sun. Older adults are about 10 times more likely to develop melanoma (malignant) so taking precautions and being aware of skin protection is vital. The sun can be dangerous and Florida’s high risk proves just how dangerous. The best way to protect your skin is to avoid overexposure to direct sunlight whenever possible and when you can’t, wearing protective clothing and sunscreen are the most popular preventative measures as mentioned. 

Keep in mind that you can still enjoy everything Florida has to offer and the things that Florida weather allows us to do year-round without putting yourself at risk of skin cancer.

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