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Taylorsville Journal

Sun safety tips for Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Jun 03, 2024 11:23AM ● By Bailey Chism

Huntsman Cancer Institute with the University of Utah. (Bailey Chism/City Journals)

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and Utah has one of the highest rates of melanoma, about twice the national average. 

It’s estimated that one in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Due to an outdoor lifestyle and elevation, Utahns are at increased risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. 

Douglas Grossman, a professor at the University of Utah and investigator for the Huntsman Cancer Center, said Utah’s fair-skinned population is at higher risk because of the higher UV rays at Utah’s altitude. 

According to an article from the National Library of Medicine, “Melanoma incidence and mortality in Utah is the highest in [the] USA. Melanoma incidence in Utah is 80% higher than the national average and mortality is 31% higher.” 

So what can you do? Dr. Grossman said to avoid being outside during peak sun hours. The sun is typically strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

If you are going to be outside, wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, even on cloudy days. 

Seeing a dermatologist at least once a year can help, as well as performing self-exams. Doctors recommend using the acronym “ABCDE” to check for melanoma. 

• Asymmetric: Look for asymmetric or unequally sized moles. 

• Border: Look for spots with jagged borders. 

• Color: Look for spots with varying colors. 

• Diameter: Look for large spots. Any moles bigger than the eraser of a pencil should be checked out. 

• Evolving: Look for any developing or changing moles.

• Grossman said people should give themselves a self-exam every one or two months and seek attention for new, changing and suspicious lesions. 

• Grossman said if you have a strong family or personal history of skin cancer, or have large, irregular moles, it’s best to see a dermatologist at least once a year. 

While skin cancer is dangerous, it is also preventable, so instilling good safety habits in the sun can help you in the long run. 

Doctors say artificial UV light sources, like tanning beds, can also cause skin damage. λ

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