sunscreen, self-exams, checkups, long sleeves cut the cancer risk

SUN PROTECTION FACTORS

The Skin Cancer Foundation offers these tips for staying safe and healthy under the summer sun:

- Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.

- Don’t burn.

- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher each day. Apply two tablespoons of sunscreen to your body 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours.

- Wear a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeve shirts, pants, sunglasses or other protective clothing.

- Examine your skin thoroughly every month.

- Visit the doctor yearly for a skin exam.

- Avoid tanning salons. Use “sunless” tanning products instead.

sunscreen, self-exams, checkups, long sleeves

cut the cancer risk

By Katie Menzer

The Dallas Morning News

As the body’s largest organ, skin is hard to ignore.

But every time you go outside without sunscreen or other protection from the sun’s harmful rays, doctors say, you’re doing just that.

“Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, but it’s also one of the most preventable,” says Dr. Kent Aftergut, a dermatologist. “It’s really a shame when anyone dies from skin cancer.”

That’s why the advent of summer is prime time for reinforcing good advice: Go to the doctor for a yearly skin checkup, make monthly self-examinations of your body, wear protective clothing and slather on sunscreen if spending any time outside.

Melanoma, a cancer often marked by irregular spots on the skin that can spread if left untreated, kills close to 8,000 people each year, although it is considered preventable and curable if caught early.

Although most people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over the age of 50, skin cancer is showing up more and more among women and young people, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

In the past three decades, skin cancer rates have tripled in women under 40, and cases of pediatric melanoma have doubled in the last 20 years.

Those numbers are why Tracy and Dan Olsen took their two teenage daughters to a free skin cancer screening last month.

“We’re of Norwegian descent, so getting checked is just the smart thing to do,” Tracy Olsen said.

People with fair skin, blond or light-colored hair and who freckle or burn easily are most at risk for skin cancer. Since 14-year-old Jackie Olsen fits that description, dermatologist Rebecca Euwer gave the teenager a thorough examination on her face, chest, arms, legs and elsewhere.

Skin cancers often arise as a new or changing mole, so Euwer cautioned the Olsens to follow the “ABCDs of melanoma” when making examinations of their skin.

- Asymmetry: Melanomas often have sides that do not match.

- Border irregularity: Unhealthy moles might have ragged or notched edges.

- Color: Healthy moles will usually have a uniform color while a melanoma might have spots of black, red, blue and other colors.

- Diameter: Melanomas often are wider than 1/4 inch.

Because one blistering sunburn in childhood can double a person’s chances of developing skin cancer later, experts encourage parents to practice good sun protection with their children from infancy.

Children under 6 months should be kept out of the sun because their skin can be too sensitive for sunscreen.

“The protection must start in young people and children early, because that’s where a lot of damage is done,” Aftergut says.

Tracy Olsen says she believes the lessons she’s teaching her teenage daughters about the importance of checkups and sun protection will stay with them into adulthood.

“You should see our collection of sunscreens,” says 16-year-old Marcy Olsen. “I gave up on any chance of a tan long ago.”