Posted by: Joe Nuss on Jun 13, 2011
Protecting Yourself from Skin Cancer
By David Elstein
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with more than two million people diagnosed each year in the United States.
Outdoor athletes like runners, bicyclists, and swimmers may have an increased risk of developing skin cancer since their exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (sun) is often greater than that of the average person.
A study in Austria that compared the skin of marathon runners to non runners found that the runners had more atypical moles, age spots, and other lesions that are indicative of an increased risk of developing skin cancer compared to non runners. And although having fair skin increases one’s risk of developing skin cancer, everyone – whether an athlete or not - is susceptible.
Tips to reduce the risks of developing skin cancer:
- Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, even on cloudy days. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Even "water-resistant" sunscreens can also lose their effectiveness after 40 minutes in the water.
- Higher numbers do mean more protection. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%, SPF 50 sunscreens about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%. The higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. And no sunscreen offers absolute protection.
- Wear clothing, sunglasses, and hat as much as possible.
- Try to stay out of the sun during its peak hours: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
- Do not use tanning beds.
Vitamin D comes from the sun, so individuals who are afraid that they will not get enough Vitamin D because of using sunscreen should talk to their doctor about other sources of it.
Duke Cancer Institute oncologist April Salama, MD, who specializes in treating skin cancer patients says everyone should know his or her body. Any changes in size of moles or lesions should be reported to a physician promptly. In the event cancer has developed, treatments have a much higher rate of success when detected early. Even melanoma–the deadliest form of skin cancer—is curable in more than 90 percent of cases if caught at an early stage.
The Duke Cancer Institute offers the most advanced care for patient with skin cancer and all forms of cancer. The mission of the institute is to accelerate research advances related to cancer and to translate these discoveries from the laboratory into the clinic to treat patients. The Duke Cancer Institute is one of only 40 centers in the country designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a “comprehensive cancer center,” combining cutting-edge research with compassionate care.
To make an appointment at the Duke Cancer Institute, call 1-888-ASK DUKE or visit cancer.duke.edu.
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David Elstein has been a writer with the Duke Cancer Institute for more than five years. Prior to this, he was a writer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.