Should you be concerned about melanoma? Furthermore, how should you protect yourself? Hint: Sunscreen!

When it comes to cancer, what do people want to know? How many new cases there are? How many people are alive today as cancer survivors or who have a history of cancer? What about survival statistics?

All of that information was released earlier this year by the American Cancer Society, in an annual report called “Cancer Facts and Figures.”

The report is important because it tracks trends over time, which lets people in on improvements to prevention and treatment approaches.

With May being Skin Care Awareness Month, it felt like the right time to look at melanoma numbers.

Melanoma is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, in men and women, the data shows.

So here are those numbers:

  • In 2019 in the U.S., an estimated 96,480 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed, affecting 57,220 men and 39,260 women.
  • In 2019 in the U.S., an estimated 7,230 deaths from melanoma are expected; that number breaks down to an expected 4,740 men and 2,490 women.
  • Cases of melanoma of the skin have risen rapidly in the past 30 years, with the incidence rate increasing 3% per year from 2006 to 2015 among men and women ages 50 and older; but the incidence rate remaining stable in people younger than 50 during this same period, according to published reports.

To step away from the numbers for a minute, there is some good news: The data suggests that new treatments for melanoma that have been approved over the past 10 or so years appear to be improving survival rates, and reducing mortality rates across the population.

So, what can you do?

Experts say that about 90% of all skin cancers, including melanoma, are directly related to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It’s so easy to choose a better sunscreen, apply it often and reapply it — and make sure your loved ones are following suit.

The Melanoma Research Alliance suggests the following:

1.) Ensure it says “broad spectrum”: These types of sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB rays, which can cause cancer.

2.) You want to choose at least SPF 30: Sun Protection Factor measures how much UVB radiation is required to burn your protected skin, versus the radiation exposure needed to burn unprotected skin.

As the SPF increases, your relative protection from sunburn goes up, too, the experts say. 

3.) Water resistant: Well, no sunscreen is truly waterproof, so always reapply as directed. But sunscreens can be rated as water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes. You won’t have to worry as often if you select one of these.