Melanoma Rates Up in Delaware

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Alarming news from Delaware hit my inbox this week. The latest cancer stats reveal that the state’s malignant melanoma incidence rate is skyrocketing, outpacing that of two-thirds of the country (64.3 percent for Delaware vs. 20 percent for the majority of other states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey).

Luckily, though melanoma is the most dangerous of all skin cancer types, the bulk of the Delaware cases covered in this scary number were diagnosed at the disease’s most treatable, local stage. It’s something I’ve experienced personally, having had a stage 0 melanoma removed from my left arm 12 summers ago. The cancer was eradicated in the initial biopsy and I needed no further treatment, but it was a terrifying discovery nonetheless, one that left me hypervigilant about protecting myself and my family from the sun.

Delaware authorities apparently feel the same way; they’re partnering with sun-care companies to pass out free sunscreen and sunburn products at the Rehoboth Bandstand on May 24 as part of national Don’t Fry Day.

FACT: One American dies every hour from melanoma.

FACT: Approximately 80% of all skin damage occurs before the age 18.

FACT: Melanoma is currently the sixth most common cancer amongst American males and seventh amongst American females.

Source: American Cancer Society

Rates aren't going up only in Delaware. Youth melanoma diagnoses are also on the upswing; it's the second most common cancer in people 15 to 29. And much of the sun damage we accumulate over our lifetime occurs during our formative years. What can you do to keep your family sun-safe?

1. Use sunscreen that you reapply frequently, every two to three hours. New federally regulated sunscreen labels now have a greater amount of information about what kind of UV protection each product provides.

  • Make sure you choose a spray or lotion with broad spectrum coverage (meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays) and an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • If there’s a skin cancer/skin aging alert in the Drug Facts section of the label, the product prevents sunburn but doesn’t reduce the risk of skin cancer or early skin aging.
  • Look also for a product that’s water-resistant up to 40 to 80 minutes, especially if you’re working out outside or swimming.

2. Put your kids in clothing and swimwear with the SPF built right in. Coolibar clothing is highly endorsed by dermatologists and the Skin Cancer Foundation. Wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses expand the protection to your head, face, neck and eyes.

3. Limit sun exposure as much as possible when the UV rays are at their most intense, between 10am and 4pm. (That's not easy to do when you're at the pool with the kids, so seek shade in the alternative.)

4. Stay away from tanning beds. They're just as dangerous as the sun.

What do you do to keep your family as sun-free as possible during the hot summer months?

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