Simplifying The Statistics And Learning From Them
When I was first diagnosed with melanoma I did exactly what every doctor would recommend you don’t do: I Googled absolutely everything. By looking up skin cancer statistics I learned a lot, and probably a little too much. The wealth of available information made the process a bit daunting and sometimes even morbid.
Skin cancer statistics: what you should know, and where you should go
One of the sources for skin cancer statistics that was particularly interesting to me was the Skin Cancer Foundation's Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics page. It was a great way to learn the hard facts and figures around skin cancer and see everything in a less opinionated light. However, it has A LOT of stats and figures, too many to really absorb and understand. But there were some facts that I found to be especially meaningful which I think is valuable to bring more attention to:
"1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70"
That's an incredible skin cancer statistic and such a large amount of people. It goes to show how common skin cancer is and the importance of protecting yourself from UV exposure early and often throughout your life. Regardless of your age or skin tone, you should be vigilant with your sun protection. Skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in America and not something to be taken lightly.
"Men ages 49 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer"
The previous skin cancer statistic about the odds of developing skin cancer by the age of 70 can be somewhat deceiving. It’s not only the older folks that have to deal with this. Skin cancer is a risk to everyone at every age. This was an extremely surprising stat to me, and one I wish I knew sooner.
"When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent"
The keywords here are “when detected early”. Like any cancer, the more it progresses the harder it is to remove. Fortunately, skin cancer often can present very visual symptoms that can be seen with the naked eye. While a 99% survival rate in the early stages is an encouraging skin cancer statistic to learn, it’s extremely important that you locate any potentially cancerous spots ASAP. If you do, the chances are extremely high that you’ll fully recover. This is also why it’s so important to get into the habit of seeing the dermatologist every year and self-checking your skin every few months. The earlier you spot the skin cancer (and remove it) the better off you’ll be.
"Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a proven human carcinogen"
UV rays are scientifically proven to be poisonous to the human body. Some of the other things that fall in this category are tobacco, diesel engine exhaust, and more. Even standing out in the sun for a couple of minutes unprotected can do some serious harm.
"Sun damage is cumulative"
Not only is ultraviolet radiation a proven carcinogen, but the damage it does is permanent! Every blistering sunburn you have growing up increases your odds of skin cancer in the future. So again, regardless of your age make sure you are protecting your skin from UV radiation, because that cumulative sun damage can lead to skin cancer.
Ultimately, all of these stats really just drive home a few major points:
UV radiation is not your friend.
Regardless of your age, make sure you are protecting yourself from UV radiation whenever you’re outside or in the sun.
Even if you are diligent with your sun protection, see a dermatologist for a skin check every year.
If you have no concerning spots – great! You’ll be in and out in no time. However, if your dermatologist does spot something concerning, you want to get it treated ASAP.
If these skin cancer statistics taught you anything, remember this:
The sooner you can locate the issue and get it taken care of the better off you’ll be. This also means that you should periodically evaluate yourself and report any suspicious findings to your doctor.
How does learning the statistics about skin cancer help you?
Have you taken our Beyond the Cancer Diagnosis Survey?