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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!

Posted Apr 30 2010 5:54am
Summer is coming! While we are at risk for skin damage all year round, we go outside more in the summer - and with all that fun, it is sometimes hard to remember to protect your skin.

Everyone's risk for skin cancer is different and understanding your unique risk is important for implementing prevention strategies.

Three things affect one’s risk for skin cancer:

1. Who you are.
Personal characteristics such as fair skin, light colored hair and blue or green eyes indicate that you are more vulnerable to the sun's harmful rays.

People with light colored skin have less of the pigment melanin, which protects the skin from sun damage.

2. Where you live.
The elevation, latitude and climate of where you live and where you grew up are three environmental factors that can greatly increase the intensity of UV radiation from the sun and put you at risk for sun damage. Locations at low latitudes (close to the equator) receive more direct sunlight. The more direct the sun’s rays, the stronger (and more damaging) the UV radiation exposure. If you live at a higher elevation, such as Colorado, the atmosphere is thinner and more UV rays are present, which puts you at risk for more intense UV radiation exposure. For every 1000 feet above sea level, UV intensity increases by 5%. Locations that have lots of clear, sunny days throughout the year have more intense UV rays than places with varying weather and seasons. For example, Colorado records over 300 days of sunshine per year.

3. What you do.
The longer you are in the sun without sun protection can increase your risk for skin damage. This is particularly true during mid-day (10 am – 4 pm) when the sun is located directly overhead, which makes UV rays more intense. If you work outdoors, sunbathe to get a tan, do not practice sun protection, or visit tanning booths you are at higher risk for skin cancer.

We'll be talking about lots of ways to protect yourself during the month of May, so stay tuned.
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