Since 1982, rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have more than doubled from 11.2 cases per 100,000 people. That may not seem like a lot unless you happen to be one of the those odds-beating people diagnosed. It is estimated that 73,000 people will be so diagnosed in the United States in 2015 with a projected 113,000 cases in 2030. I’ve seen two of these diagnoses in my own family, so the matter is high in my attention.
Treating melanoma costs something like $457 million in 2011. As health care costs go, that’s not too extreme, weighing in around $6,000 per case. Most cases will involve a chunk of skins being taken out in a relatively simple outpatient surgery. An unlucky 9,000 per year, however, die from this form of cancer.
So how do we save that $457 million? Or at least save ourselves from becoming one of those statistics? Not only is it reasonably simple to shift the odds in our favor but the remedies have other benefits as well.
- Wear sunscreen. By wearing sunscreen you’ll not only reduce your risk but you’ll also avoid painful sunburns.
- Cover up with hats and clothes. You can avoid slathering sunscreen on yourself by wearing long sleeves and brimmed hats.
- Stay out of the sun. By avoiding the heat of the day, you not only make the most of the shade but give yourself a good excuse not to mow the grass.
That’s it. Melanoma–and other skin cancers–are not mysterious afflictions, like pancreatic cancer, that seem to pop up for no real reason. By far the biggest risk factor is exposure to the sun (or other sources of UV radiation like tanning beds). Avoid the sun and you’ll likely stay out of those statistics.
Even a diagnosis of melanoma shouldn’t rob someone of hope. With Job, that person can claim, “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26). But better yet, avoid the destruction.