Skin Cancer Prevention -- It's more than just sunscreen.

BlogHer Original Post

A post on skin cancer prevention...That’s easy enough; avoid sunburns, use sunscreen, and check your skin for unusual sores or changing moles. O.K. all done. Well, it turns out it’s a little more complicated than all that. So, let's take some time to understand the facts and the controversy surrounding skin cancer prevention. Yes, I said controversy. Surprised? You shouldn't be...Isn't there a controversy surrounding just about every issue now a days? You're shaking your head right now aren't you? Because you know it's true.

But seriously, here are some of the facts about skin cancer...

Skin cancer is the most common form of human cancer. It is estimated that over 1 million new cases occur annually. The annual rates of all forms of skin cancer are increasing each year, representing a growing public concern. It has also been estimated that nearly half of all Americans who live to age 65 will develop skin cancer at least once.

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal. -- read more

O.k. - You might have already known all that. But did you know this?

The incidence of melanoma is increasing rapidly in women under the age of 40. It is now the most common cancer in young women ages 25-29, and second only to breast cancer in women ages 30-34.

Skin cancer is the leading cancer in men over age 50, ahead of prostate, lung and colon cancer. -- read full article

And these statistics are equally as troubling...

Only 14 percent of high school students reported routine sunscreen use with an SPF of 15 or higher when outside for more than an hour a day, according to an article published in the Journal of School Health in April 2006. The study showed little change in sunscreen use as measured in 1999, 2001 and 2003.

The study also found that routine sunscreen use is more common among females than males, among younger age groups than among older ones, and among white youth more than minority youth. -- read full article

And now for the controversy...

This is from The Cancer Blog.

When I slather sunscreen on the shoulders of my fair haired toddler, I trust that the claims on the bottle are accurate. I believe that by frequently covering is pale skin in cream, his epidermis will be safe, healthy and cancer free. It turns out this might not be the case. -- read more

So...Just when you think it's safe to go back into the sun, along comes information that I was totally unaware of. This is from Citizens for Sun Protection, an organization of parents, cancer survivors, healthcare professionals, business advocates and community leaders who believe there is need for comprehensive sunscreen standards.

Like most Americans, you may not realize the sunscreen you use is required to protect you from sunburn, but not adequately from skin cancer. That's because current sunscreen standards mainly require protection from the UVB rays that burn the outer layer of the skin, but not from the deep penetrating UVA rays that dermatologists also consider a cause of skin cancer.

Sunburn is bad, but skin cancer can be deadly. One American dies every hour from skin cancer and this rate continues to climb.

So, although sunscreen use increases each year, the rate of skin cancer is also increasing. How is this possible? -- read more from Citizens for Sun Protection

And for even more on the sunscreen controversy...

See: The Sunscreen Myth

Maybe we need to change the title of this post from "prevention" to "lowering the risk" of skin cancer. Because that actually seems to be the bottom line here.

Most of us believe that the way to prevent skin cancer is to always use sunscreen. But apparently, sunscreen may not ward off skin cancer.

The latest skin-cancer prevention advice is to stop trusting sunscreen as the front line of defense against harmful rays. -- read full MSNBC article

Then what can we do to lower our chances of developing skin cancer?

Lautenschlager and his colleagues carried out a comprehensive review on sun protection strategies worldwide, recently detailed online in the journal Lancet.

"Wearing sun-protective clothing and a hat and reducing sun exposure to a minimum should be preferred to sunscreens," Lautenschlager said. People tend to sunbathe for social reasons, he said. "Nevertheless, sunscreens should not be abused in an attempt to increase time in the sun to a maximum." -- read more

Outdoors, wear sunscreen and lots of it. Zinc or titanium oxide sunscreens scatter UV light and yield fewer allergies, so they are better for children, he said. The more common sunscreen lotions, called organic sunscreens, absorb UV rays.

"The application of a liberal quantity of sunscreen is by far the most important factor for effectiveness of the sunscreen, followed by the uniformity of application and the specific absorption spectrum of the agent used," Lautenschlager said.

That is, don't treat the stuff like liquid gold. Smear it on. A shot glass-full should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors. -- read more

Other tips from the AAD: Seek shade if you must be outdoors during the sun's strongest hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Avoid tanning beds. Their UV light causes skin cancer and wrinkling. Use a self-tanning lotion if you want to look tanned. -- read more

Did you know that all beach umbrellas are not created equal?

Ultraviolet rays bounce off bright surfaces, such as sand, and can burn individuals sitting under beach umbrellas. Umbrellas reduce sun exposure by half but should not create a false sense of protection.

Before you buy a beach umbrella, check the tag to see its SPF. Really. Many umbrella manufacturers are putting this information on their tags.

And from the BlogHer blogrolls...

Safe Tanning - Is There Such A Thing?

While preparing dinner last night with the tv on in the background, I heard a news clip about safe ways to tan. To my surprise, they listed tanning beds and whole body sprays as safe tanning methods. No, no, No! I wanted to pick up the phone and set them straight. -- read full post

From Massage, Mind & Body

Having just returned home from a week in the Dominican Republic, I thought it only appropriate to post on the subject of suntanning. -- read full post

From Lively Women...

It’s more common in women than in men and in those with fair skin compared with those with darker skin, but anyone can develop melanoma. Here are some tips for checking yourself, -- read full post

Also at this blog see: What You Need To Know About Skin Cancer

So what do other BlogHers think about this? Do you and your family use sunscreen? Do you think it will help prevent skin cancer? Are you surprised by some of the statistics? Let me know, I'll look forward to hearing your comments.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
also at Women 4 Hope and


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