The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 29, 2007


Tips on skin cancer prevention

Skin cancer is the most preventable and most common type of all cancers. In Massachusetts, about 615 men and 505 women are diagnosed with melanoma each year. During 1999-2003, the rates of melanoma in Carlisle increased, with women having more cases than men. These trends are consistent with others across the state. Furthermore, doctors are currently diagnosing people with skin cancer at earlier ages, some even as young as in their twenties.

There are three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (slow growing, usually develops on the face and ears), squamous cell carcinoma (more aggressive than basal cell and more likely to invade other parts of the body), and melanoma (the deadliest form of cancer). Melanoma occurs in about 5% of all skin cancers, but causes about 75% of all skin-cancer related deaths. In regards to sun exposure, basal and squamous cell carcinomas are linked with lifetime exposure while melanoma is associated with severe sunburns that occurred during childhood. About 80% of one's lifetime exposure occurs before the age of 18 and receiving two or more blistering sunburns before this age doubles an individual's risk of developing melanoma.

No matter your age or skin color, it is important to shield yourself from the sun's harmful rays. Limit the time you are in the sun, especially during 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, reapply every two hours and after swimming, sweating, and exiting the water. No sunscreen should be placed on infants less than six months of age, but they should be covered with hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Adults should also wear this protective clothing.

When applying sunscreen, a palmful is always best and should be applied 20 to 30 minutes prior to going outside in order for it to be absorbed by the skin. Also, refrain from staying outside longer because you are wearing sunscreen, as it defeats its purpose if it is not reapplied. Finally, in reference to expiration dates, some sunscreens will have an expiration date and these dates should be followed as some ingredients do not have long shelf lives. Some sunscreens do not have expiration dates, however, so if the bottle is more than three years old, smells abnormal, is lumpy or has an off color, throw it away and invest in a new bottle.

Never use tanning salons, booths or sun lamps because they are just as harmful as the sun's rays and do not provide a protective layer or "base coat" against the sun. By attending these facilities, the skin becomes damaged before one even steps out into the sun. Current self-tanners also do not provide any protection unless they have an SPF rating. Furthermore, avoid the sun when taking drugs such as tetracycline, tretinoin, sleeping pills, and diuretics, which can all make your skin more sun-sensitive. Finally, conduct monthly self-exams using a hand-held mirror and a bright light and schedule yearly skin checks with a professional in order to find any suspicious spots early.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito