Did you know that doctors diagnose five million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. every year? And that melanoma/skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in America?

No – Wyoming women are not immune from this preventable yet deadly disease. We may live in a colder climate, but the sun shines in our state an average of more than 200 days per year. Plus, many people, men and women, use tanning salons and/or spend hours outdoors during the summer months. Most skin cancer cases are attributed to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Prevention is easy

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma/skin cancer ranks fourth in the types of cancer found in Wyoming residents. There are many ways to enjoy Wyoming’s great outdoors and yet protect yourself from the harmful effects of sun upon your skin. Here are four:

  1. Use coverings for your head (a hat or scarf) and your arms (long-sleeved, light-weight shirts).
  2. Wear sunscreen, including on your face. Ensure the SPF is at least 15 and use products with the term “broad spectrum.”   SPF 30 or higher is best, and be sure to re-apply every two hours, especially after swimming.
  3. Stay in the shade between the strongest sun times, generally 10 am to 2 pm.
  4. As with breast cancer prevention, check yourself regularly for moles and other changes to your skin.

Some places where skin cancer can develop that may surprise you include lips, scalp, eyelids, and groin. Be aware of moles that develop and changes in those spots.

Is a tanning bed safer than the sun?

Contrary to popular opinion, tanning beds are NOT safer than the sun. The American Academy for Dermatology Association reports, “Just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer (melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and basal cell carcinoma by 29%).” The Association also states that young people who don’t use tanning beds reduce their risk of getting skin cancer, and therefore, of dying from the disease: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that if no one younger than 18 years of age ever used a tanning bed, we could prevent about 61,839 melanomas and 6,735 deaths due to melanoma.”

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Wyoming State Parks is helping to fight the incidence of skin cancer in our state by offering sunscreen at the various state parks across the state. While visiting, camping, hiking, or boating, take advantage of this free gift to protect yourself, your family, and your friends from the harmful rays of the sun while enjoying Wyoming’s special sites!

Skin cancer kills

If you have concerns about skin cancer, visit with a doctor or dermatologist. Skin cancers may start off small but can have deadly consequences.

The Wyoming Department of Health offers low-to-no-cost cancer screening programs for residents. Find out more here: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/prevention/cancer/.

Enjoy Wyoming’s spring and summer months but remember to protect yourself from the possibility of skin cancer while outdoors.