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Health Officials: Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer

by Indiana State Department of Health on July 22, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS—As summer marches on, so does fun in the sun around Indiana. State health officials want Hoosiers to know the risks of sun exposure and take measures to protect against developing skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and affects more people than lung, breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime.

The two most common types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, can be cured, especially if the cancer is detected and treated early. According to the ACS, melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of skin cancer cases, however, it causes the most skin cancer related deaths, killing one American every hour.

During 2008 to 2012, approximately 1,190 Hoosiers were diagnosed with melanoma each year and about 214 Hoosiers died each year as a result. According to the Indiana Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 report, the number of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers is hard to estimate as these cases are not required to be reported to the Indiana State Cancer Registry.

“It’s great to get outdoors, get active and enjoy the beautiful summer weather,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “Taking a few simple steps to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays can go a long way in reducing your risk for skin cancer. Remember, tanned skin is damaged skin.”

Dr. VanNess suggests taking the following steps to reduce your risk of skin cancer:

Limit or avoid exposure to the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Wear sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or more that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
Wear clothing that has built-in SPF in the fabric or wear protecting clothing, such as long sleeves and long pants (tightly woven, dark fabrics protect your skin better than lightly colored, loosely woven fabrics).
Wear a hat that protects your scalp and shades your face, neck, and ears.
Avoid using tanning beds and sun lamps.
Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ocular melanoma (melanoma of the eye).
ALWAYS protect your skin – Skin is still exposed to UV rays even on cloudy days and during the winter months. Use extra caution around water, snow, and sand, as they reflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Changes in the shape, size and color of moles may indicate skin cancer. To help with early detection for melanoma and other skin cancers, health officials suggest the following ABCDE guidelines when looking at a mole to determine if you should be concerned.

A = Asymmetry:

One half of the mole (or lesion) does not match the other half.
B = Border:

Border irregularity; the edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
C = Color:

The pigmentation is not uniform, with variable degrees of tan, brown or black.
D = Diameter:

The diameter of a mole or skin lesion is greater than six millimeters (or the size of a pencil eraser). Any sudden increase in the size of an existing mole should be checked.

E = Evolution:

Existing moles changing shape, size or color.

For more information about skin cancer in Indiana, visit the Indiana Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 report, a comprehensive report on the burden of cancer in Indiana at

To visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s website, go to For important health information and updates, follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at

Those interested in reducing cancer in Indiana should consider participating in the Indiana Cancer Consortium (ICC). The ICC is a statewide network of partnerships whose mission is to reduce the cancer burden in Indiana through the development, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive plan that addresses cancer across the continuum from prevention through palliation. Participation in the ICC is open to all organizations and individuals interested in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, quality of life, data collection and advocacy regarding cancer-related issues. To become a member of the ICC and find additional information about cancer prevention and control in Indiana, please visit the ICC’s website at


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