Tips To Keep You Safe In The Sun
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute physicians and nurses are encouraging
people when they are outside, whether they are spending a day at the
beach or a few hours working in their yard, to be aware of the dangers
of overexposure to the sun and to practice sun safety.
Prevention and early detection are critical to reducing the dangers
of skin cancer and melanoma. "Warm weather is a great motivator for
people to get outside and reap the health benefits of being more
active," explained Stephen Hodi, MD, clinical director of the Melanoma
Program at Dana-Farber. "At the same time, it is important that people
protect themselves from the sun and make themselves aware of the signs
and symptoms of skin cancer and melanoma to greatly reduce their risk
of developing these preventable but dangerous diseases."
To stay sun safe, remember to think about:
* Applying a sun block with a rating of SPF 15 or higher
* Reapplying sun block every two hours, and immediately after swimming or heavy perspiration
* Providing additional protection by wearing a broad rimmed hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts and pants
* Avoiding excessive exposure to the sun, especially during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Because sunscreen contains ingredients that lose potency over time,
bottles that have been sitting on the shelf for more than a year may
not provide adequate protection. "People need to remember to look at
the expiration date on their bottle of sun block," explained Hodi. "In
general, we recommend that you change your bottle of sun block yearly."
According to the American Cancer Society, more than an estimated one
million Americans will be diagnosed with basal cell or squamous cell
cancers this year, and more than 62,000 will be diagnosed with the most
serious form of skin cancer-melanoma. More than 10,500 deaths in the
United States this year will be due to a form of skin cancer.
Melanoma can be hereditary; people with family members who have had
melanoma are at a higher risk for melanoma. People who have had
melanoma and moles are at greater risk of developing the disease.
Excessive sun exposure and sunburns increase a person's risk of
developing not only melanoma but other skin cancers as well.
Skin cancers present a range of symptoms. Melanoma symptoms include
changes on the skin, including new spots or moles or existing spots or
moles that change in shape, size and color. Basal cell carcinomas
usually appear as flat, firm, pale areas or as small, raised, pink or
red waxy areas. Squamous cell cancer may appear as lumps with rough
surfaces or as flat, red patches that grow slowly.
Recognizing changes on the skin is key for early detection and
treatment of skin cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends using
the ABCD rule to help determine when a skin or mole change should be
seen by a physician:
* for asymmetry: one half is differently shaped than the other
* for border irregularity: jagged or blurred edges
* for color: the pigmentation may not be consistent
* for diameter: moles greater than six millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser)
People who experience any of these symptoms should notify their
physician immediately. Some skin cancers can be removed by excising the
affected areas; malignant melanoma may involve removing the affected
area, removing lymph nodes near the area and may also include radiation