The summer months are here and many people will rush to the beach to lay beneath the warm rays of the sun for a tan.
Unfortunately, one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.
Maj. Anne Spillane, a board-certified dermatologist at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, gave a presentation on how to spot and prevent skin cancer during Kimbrough's monthly Lunch and Learn Series on Tuesday.
Spillane said that skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and accounts for half of all the cancers in the U.S. About 3.5 million people are diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer each year, while 76,000 are diagnosed with melanoma, the most aggressive and deadliest form of the disease, each year.
"One American dies from melanoma skin cancer every hour," Spillane said.
Although skin cancer is a serious disease, Spillane said not many people are aware of its risk factors.
Both natural sunlight and tanning booths, which are sources of UV radiation, are the most important risk factors for any type of cancer. A lifetime of sun exposure and severe blistering sunburns also are warning signs, Spillane said.
People with a personal and family history of skin cancer also are at risk, particularly those who have two or more close relatives who have been diagnosed with melanoma.
Spillane said that although skin cancer occurs in people with pale to the darkest skin tones, those with pale skin, green or blue eyes, and/or blonde or red hair are most susceptible to sunburns and skin cancer.
However, Spillane said that skin cancer occurs in people with dark skin as well, although their dark pigmentation does provide a natural SPF of about 10.
People with certain medical conditions, such as organ transplants and immunosuppressive medications, are also at risk.
Another risk factor for skin cancer is having more than 50 moles across the skin, as well as atypical-shaped or colored moles.
Nonmelanoma skin cancer can occur as the result of old scars or burns, chronic ulcers or other areas of inflammation on the skin and radiation therapy.
There are three types of skin cancer: basal-cell carcinoma, squamous-cell carcinoma and melanoma.
* Basal-cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and develops on the head, neck or arms after years of sun exposure.
* Squamous-cell carcinoma is the second most common form. However, it can grow deep in the skin and spread to distant areas of the body, so treatment is particularly important for this form of cancer, Spillane said.
* Melanoma is the deadliest form of cancer and can develop within a mole or appear suddenly as a new mole.
Spillane said that early diagnosis and treatment for melanoma are critical, noting that a localized form of the disease, if caught early, can have a 98 percent survival rate.
It is important for people to check their skin at least once a month for changes in the color, size and shape of old moles, and for the appearance of new moles, Spillane said.
In terms of sunscreen, it is important to use a broad-spectrum water-resistant product with an SPF of 30 or higher. A broad-spectrum sunscreen can provide protect against UVA and UVB rays from the sun, which both can cause skin cancer.
Spillane said people should reapply sunscreen frequently throughout the day, even on cloudy days, and wear protective clothing.
It is also important to follow a doctor's recommendations for vitamin D supplements and to always avoid tanning beds.
Retired Air Force Tech Sgt. Virginia Vauls was invited to attend the presentation by her primary care physician at Kimbrough. Vauls said she could relate to the topic and that she will be more vigilant in checking her skin for moles and changes.
"I've had spots for years and I've never had anyone check on it -- maybe I should," Vauls said. "You never really read or hear about melanoma, what it is, how to look for it, how to prevent it."
Chaula Shah, a registered nurse in Kimbrough's specialty unit that includes dermatology, said she attended the presentation so she can better educate her patients and her family members, particularly at this time of year.
"I'm a beach lover," Shah said. "I love the sun, it makes me happy. But I've got to be safe and be aware of how to protect myself and my two girls. ... We are responsible for our own health."