May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month
(Hammond) –Who needs to use sunscreen? Everyone! Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year, accounting for nearly half of all U.S. cancers, according to national statistics from the American Cancer Society. “Nearly all are preventable,” said Renea Duffin, vice president of cancer programs, Mary Bird Perkins. “The sun’s ultraviolet rays are generally regarded as the main culprit. The most effective preventive method is sun avoidance.”
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), although it accounts for only about 5% of all skin cancer cases, it is the leading cause of all skin cancer-related deaths. However, like the less aggressive basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, melanoma is almost always curable when detected in its early stages. Dark brown or black skin is not a guarantee against melanoma, says the AAD. Dark skinned people can develop melanoma on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under nails, or in the mouth.
The AAD recommends that a broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 be used year-round. Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays can pass through window glass, penetrate deeper into the dermis and are known to lead to signs of premature aging of the skin such as wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays are the sun’s burning rays. Excessive exposure to both forms of UV rays can lead to the development of skin cancer, says the AAD. “The most startling fact of all, perhaps, is that one severe sunburn during the first 15 years of life can double your risk of skin cancer later on,” explained Duffin.
Most skin professionals recommend a waterproof, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 40 for children. Apply sunscreen at least one half hour before exposure to allow penetration and better protection. One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly. Don’t forget that lips get sunburned, too, so apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Keep babies six months or younger out of the sun completely.
Tanning beds and sun lamps, which provide an additional source of UV radiation, should be avoided. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer upgraded their classification of indoor tanning devices from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “definitively carcinogenic to humans” after a reassessment of the scientific evidence.
Additionally, cautions the Food and Drug Administration, some kinds of medication increase sun-sensitivity such as oral contraceptives, antibiotics and skin treatments like Retin-A and Renova. You are advised to check with your doctor.
Check your birthday suit on your birthday, recommends the AAD. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is offering a free skin cancer screening Tuesday, May 24, 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Mary Bird Perkins Canter Center, 15728 Paul Vega MD Drive, Hammond.
This screening is for men and women 18 and older who do not have insurance and have not been screened for skin cancer by a physician in the last 12 months. No appointment is required to participate in this screening.
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center has been fighting cancer for over 40 years with locations in Baton Rouge, Covington, Hammond, Houma and Gonzales. It has comprehensive cancer programs with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge and St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington. These programs are accredited by the American College of Surgeons – the gold standard for community-based cancer care. For more information visitwww.marybird.org.