tanningOWENSBORO, Ky. (6/24/14) — As summer approaches in later June it’s important to understand the importance of protecting our skin in the sun from skin cancer.

Many adults grew up in a time where “sunscreen” was relegated for people that chose to purchase it, believed one good burn was all you needed before a tan would appear or for those who easily burned from the sun’s rays.

Today, we know much more about the harmful effects posed to the rays of the sun.

First things first, what exactly is skin cancer?

Skin cancer begins when cells that are not normal grow on the skin. Most often it appears on the head, face, neck, hands and arms. Many skin cancers appear after age 50, but the sun damages the skin from early childhood. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 80 percent of damage takes place before the age of 18.

Remember, it is important to protect your children from the sun. Infants six months and younger should not be in the sun at all.

There are three types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. The first two types are curable if found early. Melanoma is the most dangerous type. It can spread quickly to other parts of the body. If not treated, melanoma can result in death.

What causes a person to develop skin cancer?

Most skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation comes from the sun and tanning beds. People of all races can get skin cancer, but those with fair skin and blonde or red hair are actually most at risk.  Your chance of getting skin cancer increases with having multiple moles, sunburns as a child, or if you have a family member who has had the disease.

What are the symptoms?

Skin cancer is usually not painful but most commonly appears as a new growth on the skin, a change in an old growth, or a sore that does not heal. Not all skin cancers are the same.  They may look pale or red. They may feel crusty, flat, scaly, smooth or firm. The first sign of melanoma is often a new mole or a change in the size, shape, color or feel of an existing mole. Most melanomas have a black or blue-black area.

How can I protect myself?

  • Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., whenever possible.

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim when you are in the sun.

  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Re-apply every two hours, even if waterproof.

  • Avoid tanning beds.

  • Do a skin self-exam once a month.

  • After age 50, ask your doctor to examine your skin as part of your routine checkup.

It’s hard to refrain from being in the sun this time of year, but if you are, please play it safe in the sun by limiting your exposure, wearing your sunscreen and seeing a dermatologist.

Where can I get more information?

For information about cancer resources in your community, call the Kentucky Cancer Program at (270) 683-2560.

The information comes from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SurfKY News
Jaime Rafferty, Kentucky Cancer Program – Green River Cancer Control Specialist

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