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Skin Cancer

Photo: Studiomill

There are many things to look forward to doing in the sun: gardening, swimming, boating, hiking, picnics…. And one important thing to watch out for: skin cancer.

People with fair skin, freckles and moles may be more prone to skin cancer, but everyone is at risk. And it’s more serious than you might think. The American Cancer Society reports that more than one million Americans are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer every year. This number is higher than breast, prostate, lung, colon, uterus, ovaries and pancreas cancers combined. And the number of cases is on the rise.1

There are three types of skin cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common. Though rarely fatal, these cancers still need to be treated by a physician so they don’t spread to nearby tissue. The third type, melanoma, can be deadly. If left untreated it can spread rapidly, making treatment difficult. When caught in its early stages, it’s fairly treatable.


Most skin cancers are caused by too much sun exposure. But rather than fear the sun, take these precautions:

Always wear sunblock. “Use at least an SPF 15 sunblock every time you step outside,” says dermatologist Dr. George Verghese. “It's almost like you wake up in the morning, brush your teeth, comb your hair, put some sunscreen on. And make sure it has both an UVA and a UVB blocker.”

Know your sunscreen. Look at the label when choosing a sunscreen. The higher the SPF (sun protection factor) the more protection your skin will get. But, the American Cancer Society warns that sunblock doesn’t give your skin total protection. The best sunscreen products will say that they protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. It needs to be reapplied every two to fours hours, too. And if you’re swimming, use waterproof sunscreen.

Never forget your shades. It is possible to get melanoma of the eye and skin cancer around your temples. Buy glasses that have both UVA and UVB radiation protection of 99 to 100 percent. Faithfully wearing sunglasses can also protect you from developing cataracts later in life.

Cover up. If you’re often out in the sun, there are several companies that sell sun protection clothing. Cover up as much of your skin as you can when outdoors, and try to wear darker, tightly woven fabrics, which provide better protection.

Beware of the time of day. Try to avoid the strongest sun, which comes between noon and three. This is particularly important if you’re at the beach.

Be wary of tanning beds. The lamps in the beds give out UVA and often UVB rays in concentrated doses. Tanning beds are partially to blame for the rise in skin cancer among young people.

Do a skin check. Examine your skin once a month, and know your ABCD’s—so you can check any growths or moles for “Asymmetry, Boarders, Color and Diameter” change. If you notice something abnormal, see your doctor right away.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.


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