Friday, March 19, 2010

Sense in the sun?

Two new studies published in the March issue of the Archives of Dermatology might give us reason to trade in that slogan for “time to pay the piper”.

Referring to non-melanoma skin cancer: "We are dealing with a problem that is not going away," said Dr. Howard Rogers, a dermatologist in Norwich, Conn., and lead author of one of the studies. "The number has kept going up and up at a rate of 4.2 percent every year, on average, from 1992 to 2006," he said. One study found that one in five 70-year-olds has been treated for non-melanoma skin cancer.

As the baby-oiled sun worshippers grow older, they have a high probability of getting basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. These non-melanoma skin cancers are not usually fatal, but can be disfiguring and can matastasize. "This is only going to get worse," said Dr. Suephy Chen, an associate professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Our population is aging. Those people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s when there was not a big sun-protection message out there are now coming into their 50s and 60s and are starting to develop skin cancers."

Dermatologists suggest these practices to better your odds against skin cancer: apply broad-spectrum sunscreen liberally and often, wear hats and other protective clothing when out in the sun, avoid sun exposure when the sun's rays are the strongest -- between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and never using tanning beds. “It's especially important to take these steps with children and teens (to the extent they will listen)”, Rogers said. “Skin cancer is turning up in younger and younger patients”. In the past week or so, he removed non-melanoma cancer off the cheek of a 17-year-old boy and removed a melanoma from an 18-year-old girl.

Because skin cancer is one of the most preventable diseases Americans face, Partnership for Prevention underscores these health recommendations. With over one million new diagnoses predicted in 2010, affecting more people than all other cancers combined, the time is now to use sense in the sun.

David Zauche
Managing Senior Fellow & Senior Program Officer
Partnership for Prevention


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