Sun and Fun? Let’s Play It Safe!
That time of year is upon us once again. We are pushing the winter months out of our mind and setting our eyes on sun and fun!
While the warmth weather brings us barbeques, swimming, fishing, and many more outdoor sports, it can also seal your fate.
By being outside in the sun without protecting yourself from the harmful UV rays. That’s right; I’m talking about preventing skin cancer!
Did you know that everyone, regardless of skin color, can sunburn? In fact, a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the following sunburn rates in each of the listed ethnic groups:
- Males reporting one sunburn in the preceding year: 5.8%
- Females reporting at least one sunburn in the preceding year: 5.8%
- Reporting less that >4 sunburns in the preceding year: 12.3%
- Males reporting one sunburn in the preceding year: 12.4%
- Females reporting at least one sunburn in the preceding year: 9.5%
- Reporting less that >4 sunburns in the preceding year: 19.1% (light-skinned)
- Males reporting one sunburn in the preceding year: 16.2%
- Females reporting at least one sunburn in the preceding year: 16.1%
- Reporting less that >4 sunburns in the preceding year: 15.5%
American Indian/Alaskan Natives
- Males reporting one sunburn in the preceding year: 30.4%
- Females reporting at least one sunburn in the preceding year: 21.5%
- Reporting less that >4 sunburns in the preceding year: 19.6%
And here’s yet another lil tidbit for you. Do you remember Bob Marley? The big-time Reggae musician? Yes, he died from Melanoma skin cancer. So please don’t think, just because you aren’t Caucasian, that you can’t get skin cancer.
So how does one prevent getting skin cancer?
- • Stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm or if not possible, limit your time and be sure to wear sunblock
- • Don’t burn
- • Avoid tanning beds and booths!
- • Cover yourself up, including a brimmed hat (face protection) and UV-blocking sunglasses
- • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day, even in the winter.
- • Reapply sunscreen or sunblock every two hours and if swimming, be sure to wear a waterproof product
- • Exam your skin monthly or more so, if you are a skin cancer survivor
- • See your physician every year for skin exam
There are many different types of skin cancers (as described via SkinCancer.org)
- Actinic Keratosis – a scaly or crusty growth (lesion). It most often appears on the bald scalp, face, ears, lips, backs of the hands and forearms, shoulders, neck or any other areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma – abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). BCCs often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars.
- Dysplastic Nevi – (atypical moles) are unusual benign moles that may resemble melanoma.
- Melanoma – The most dangerous form of skin cancer, these cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. These tumors originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease. Melanoma kills an estimated 8,790 people in the US annually.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s upper layers (the epidermis). SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed. SCC is mainly caused by cumulative UV exposure over the course of a lifetime. It can become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow.
Lastly, the subject of skin cancer prevention is near and dear to my heart as I am a skin cancer survivor and continue to look out for more potential cancers. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma which gave me scare enough to wear sunblock 365 days per year. It left me with a quarter sized scar on my forehead, which I know call my “third eye”.
Diagnosis – Basal Cell Carcinoma
I also have a few “near misses” with melanoma moles, which of course, were diagnosed by removal of the moles and biopsies.
Diagnosis – Precancerous – moderate premelanoma
Even after watching my best friend die from Melanoma, I continued to use tanning beds and go outside in the sun unprotected. Until I was delivered that first scare, I thought “It won’t happen to me.”
So I ask you to PLEASE do not be a statistic. Cover up, protect yourself as well as your loved ones, and live a healthy life.
Oh, and don’t forget! Your animals can get skin cancer as well!
Now over to you, have you ever had a skin cancer “scare” or are you currently undergoing treatment?