Carbon area residents, Utahns face increased skin cancer risks
|Jody Fausett spreads sunscreen on her daughter, Kaitlen, before participating in an afternoon of swimming at a local pool. Health care experts stress the fact that it is extremely important for parents to make sure children wear proper sun block or protective clothing while outdoors during the summer. By eliminating serious sunburns during childhood, parents can also reduce the risk of their child forming skin cancer later on in life.
Utahns are more prone to skin cancer than Americans residing at different locations in the United States.
The increased susceptibility is due, in part, to the state's high altitude, the large number of sunny days and the ready access to outdoor activities, according to the Utah Cancer Action Network.
Because of this increased risk, the cancer network which is comprised of more than 70 organizations has launched a new campaign to inform parents to protect their skin and their children's from the sun all year round.
The more time that is spent in the sun's ultraviolet rays, the more likely they are to develop skin cancer.
"Most Utahns are Caucasian, have fair skin and tend to burn easily, but people of all races should limit their time in the sun as well," stated Huntsman Cancer Institute professor of dermatology, Dr. Glen Bowen.
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Utah and in the U.S. In 2003, an estimated 54,200 persons in the nation will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer.
Also, about 7,600 people will die in the U.S. this year from melanoma alone explained the cancer society.
"One serious sunburn with blisters in childhood can increase the risk of skin cancer by 78 percent," advised Utah Department of Health skin cancer coordinator, Janet Heins. "That is why we are urging parents to teach their children to cover-up and use sunscreen daily. We have a lot of work to do because about 70 percent of Utahns do not routinely use sunscreen."
To better understand the consequences of not regularly protecting ones skin from the sun, the American Cancer Society explains that each year about 7,800 Americans will die from melanoma.
The form of cancer begins in melanocytes - the skin cells that produce the skin coloring or protective pigment called melanin. The pigments help to protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
The cancer society explains that melanoma consists of melanocytes which have been transformed into cancer cells that grow uncontrollably.
If not detected at an early stage, melanoma can spread and reach vital internal organs and grow. At this stage, the cancer cells are much less likely to be cured.
While melanoma may appear in the skin without warning, it may begin in or near a mole or other dark spot in the skin. That is why it's important to know the color, size and location of the moles on the body, so that changes may be recognized easily explained the cancer society.
The cancer authority advises Utah residents that no one is entirely free from the risk of melanoma.
Those who have the highest risk of melanoma have many moles, irregular moles or large moles. Others who develop melanoma may have fair skin that burns and freckles easily and naturally red or blond hair. Regardless, no one is immune to all of the damaging effects of the sun.
The American Cancer Society advises Carbon County residents to watch for any changes to moles. The best way to do so is to watch for the ABCD signs of melanoma which includes the following.
Asymmetry. One half of the spot does not match the other half.
Border irregularity. Normal moles are round or oval. The borders of a melanoma may be uneven or notched.
Color. Common moles are usually one color throughout. Melanomas may have several colors or an irregular pattern of colors.
Diameter. Common moles are generally less than one-quarter inch in diameter. Melanomas may be one-eighth to one-quarter inch, but are often larger.
If any changes are noticed, a physician should be contacted immediately.
Melanoma may be treated, but the best way is surgery which is required during the early stages. Later stages may require more extensive treatment.
The best tool in preventing any skin cancer is protection from the sun. Because research has found that there is a link between sunburns in children and an increased risk of melanoma and skin cancer later in life, it is extremely important to protect children from the sun.
According to the cancer society, the sun's rays are generally strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Whenever possible plan outdoor activities so as not to be in the sun during the middle of the day.
When children are outdoors, be sure their skin is protected. Ultra-violate rays reflect off water, sand, snow and any light-colored surface like concrete. These rays also reach below the water's surface.
The cancer society also recommends that children cover up with hats and shirts while outdoors. Shirts and slacks should be made of tightly woven fabrics that are not see through when held up to the light.
Sunscreen should be applied every day to skin that is not protected by clothing or a hat.
When deciding what suncreen to use, the cancer society advises that a sun protection factor of 15 or higher gives skin the best protection from dangerous sun rays. Apply the sunscreen freely, evenly and frequently.
And parents are reminded that it is extremely important to use suncreen when children are in the water.
Many brands of sunscreen offer waterproof protection, but even these products should be reapplied frequently to prevent a serious sunburn.
The cancer society also reminds parents that children six months and younger should not use suncreen. Rather, protect young children with clothing and keep them in the shade as much as possible.
Sunglasses protect the eyes and the tender skin around them from harmful ultraviolet rays. Therefore, experts recommend wearing wraparound sunglasses that block close to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays.
Finally, the cancer organization warns Utah residents to avoid tanning beds. Sunlamps damage the skin just as the sun's rays do.
"We hope that our campaign will help Utah residents understand the importance of protecting themselves and their children from the sun all year round," stated Heins.
"If parents protect their children now, they can have the peace of mind that their children will be less likely to get skin cancer as adults."