Skin Cancer Is On The Rise
May is designated as national skin cancer prevention month. For many of us, however, this may comes many, many Mays too-late to prevent the problems that range from basal cell carcinoma to full-on melanoma.
by Jim Shepherd - The Fishing Wire from Berkeley
For many of us, the sign of health, vim and vigor when we were young was a tan-the darker, the better.
Unfortunately, those days of using baby oil and iodine to get a deeper, faster tan have given way to age spots, biopsies, and everything from "freezing" pre-cancerous spots to MOHS surgery to excise malignancies.
Today, it's not unusual to see professional athletes in virtually all outdoor sports slathering on the sunscreen. While it's too-late for many of us, we're actually serving as role models for the current generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
As we spend time outdoors, we need to pay close attention to the messages our skin-the largest organ of the human body-sends us. When we feel the heat of the sun, we need to either apply ample amounts of sunscreen or cover ourselves. If we're smart about it, we'll also cover our ears, nose, and thin spots atop our noggins especially well.
Skin cancer is on the rise. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, more than 2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year, and of these, about 68,000 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, are diagnosed. While more people are detecting cancer earlier, increasing their chances of survival, cancer rates are actually rising, especially among young people who use tanning booths and do not use sunblock when outside.
Here are some tips for all of us from Dr. Sam Economou, who leads Plastic Surgery Consultants, Ltd., a plastic and reconstructive surgical practice in Edina, a Minneapolis, Minnesota suburb.
Apply Sunblock.Always apply sunblock lotion at least 30 minutes before going out into the sun, before you start to perspire, allowing the sunblock to soak into your skin. Apply sunblock lotion frequently throughout the day. Use a sunblock with a SPF rating of at least 30 an arms, legs, face and neck and a water-resistant SPF of 50+ on your nose and the top of your ears.
Wear a Hat. The most susceptible place on your body for skin cancer is your head and face. Believe me, reconstructive surgery on the nose and ears is challenging. Whether it's sunny or cloudy out, at the very least, wear a cap with a front bill. Ideally wear a cap with both a front bill and a back bill to cover up the back of your neck. Cover your head, too. You can get skin cancer on your scalp even if you have a full head of hair. Always cover your ears, nose and back of your neck with sunblock.
Polarized UV Blocking Sunglasses. Wear sunglasses to protect your retinas from harmful UV rays. Sunglasses that wrap around your face offer the best protection. Polarized lenses help cut the glare, help you see better and protect your eyes.
Wear Protective Clothing. If you have a high risk or history of skin cancer you should look into protective clothing. Saltwater flats guides who spend their days in the sun in Florida, Louisiana, Texas and California know a thing or two about skin cancer. That's why they cover up. Even on the hottest days, they wear long but lightweight, light-colored pants, long-sleeve shirts, caps, gloves, and lightweight shoes. Saltwater guides also rely upon light-weight face and head masks or what downhill skiers call gators, which they can pull up over the nose, just under their sunglasses and over their ears. Wear shirts and pants that are specially made to block the sun, and wick away moisture to keep you cool while out on the water. Look for shirts and pants that offer a UPF rating of at least 30+, as recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, to protect against harmful UVA/UVB rays. Remember, UV rays are present even on cloudy days.
Avoid Sunburns. Repeated sunburns over time can cause significant damage to your skin. That's why it's important to avoid them. Take extra care to prevent your kids from getting sunburned. Severe sunburns as a child are a leading risk factor in developing skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns happen though, despite our best intentions. If you do receive a severe sunburn, treat the sunburned area with an aloe-based lotion, take cool showers, and if you're experiencing headaches, take a pain reliever.
Stay Hydrated. To maintain healthy skin, don't forget to stay hydrated while fishing by drinking plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and avoiding wind burn. When your skin dries out or is not hydrated properly, it's more susceptible to sunburn and long term skin damage.
Conduct Skin Cancer Self-examinations. If you have a fair complexion, multiple freckles and moles, and experienced severe sunburns as a child, you have some of the leading risk factors for skin cancer. Take this seriously, especially if you spend a fair amount of time outside working or playing (like fishing). At least once a month, before you get into or just out of the shower, look at your skin. Look at moles and freckles to see if you notice and changes in their shape, size, color or asymmetry. Make an appointment once a year with your doctor or a dermatologist to look at your skin as part of an annual exam. Especially watch moles and freckles on high risk areas of your body, the face, nose, ears, the back of your hands and your calves.
In case you're wondering why I'm re-stressing this information, it's because I'm prepping for radiation treatments this morning as many of you are reading through today's wires. Take it from me, you ignore this advice at your own peril.