According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 470 new cases of melanoma of the skin in New Mexico in 2014.
From 2006 – 2010, an average of about 60 melanoma deaths occurred per year in New Mexico.
“When you’re having fun outdoors, it’s easy to forget how important it is to protect yourself from the sun,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take as long as 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure.”
The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors not just here in New Mexico but also the entire continental United States. UV rays from sunlight are the greatest right now during the late spring and throughout the summer.
UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like cement, sand, and water. Indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan) exposes you to UV radiation, too.
The New Mexico Department of Health and the CDC recommend the following easy ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from UV radiation:
- Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face head, ears, and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.
- Avoid indoor tanning altogether
For more information on melanoma and other types of cancers, visit the Department of Health’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Program page at http://nmhealth.org/about/phd/cdb/ccp/