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Safety Pro

Summer Skin Keeping it Healthy

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08/01/2011 - According to the American Academy of Dermatology, over 1,000,000 new cases of skin cancer are reported in the U.S. every year, and 10,000 Americans (one every 61 minutes) will die from it. Studies show one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

Melanoma, a type of skin cancer named after the cells that produce pigment, is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.

What is the cause of melanoma, or skin cancer? The biggest culprit is unprotected exposure to UV rays from the sun or from tanning beds. Those fanatic attempts to stay tanned year round or to 'lobster up' with sunburn to show off sun exposure a common practice with teens and young adults creates just the right conditions to cause skin cancer.

We can't live in protected isolation or bubbles. No once can go outside without some risk. But hours at the pool or beach, sunbathing, or long hours of outdoor exposure due to work or projects require special care to avoid over-exposure. Sunburn is not pleasant and can create health problems as noted in an earlier article. But your skin doesn't have to 'burn' to have a skin cancer risk.

Those who are most at risk have fair skin, red, light brown or blond hair, blue, gray or green eyes, freckles, and large, numerous, unusual or changing moles. They don't tan easily, often burning badly, and may have a family history of melanoma. As a child or youth, they had a record of painful or blistering sunburns.

Skin cancer does not occur quickly but shows itself after cumulative years of unprotected exposure. It is estimated that 80% of all sun exposure occurs by the time a person is 18 years of age. That is why it is so important to begin using sunblock now with children and young teens and continue that protection throughout their lifetimes.

So what steps can we take to reduce the risk of skin cancer? You can teach your kids the ABCs of sun protection and follow your own advice to them. A = Away. Stay away from (or out of) the sun in the middle of the day. When the sun is the highest, it is the most dangerous to skin. Getting outdoors in the morning or early evening is healthier than between the hours of 10am-4pm. B = Block. For children, use sunblock that has a SPF rating of at least 30. It won't hurt you to wear it, either. And if it gets wet or for longer than two hours, re-apply it. C = Cover up. Wear a light-color t-shirt and hat to reflect the harmful UV rays away and minimize exposed skin. As an extra caution, keep infants out of direct sun whenever possible.

Reduce the risk of you or your family becoming a cancer statistic while enjoying your summer.

Randy DeVaul (safetypro@roadrunner.com) is a 30-year safety professional and emergency response instructor. Comments are always welcome.

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Chris Walsh

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