With Summer Coming, It's Time to Cover Up
MADISON - While many other common cancers are declining, skin cancer in Wisconsin and the U.S. is increasing.
According to a report and recommendations on skin cancer by Wisconsin's Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, practical and easy steps can be taken to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
For example, with weather warming and increased exposure to the sun, it's time to slap on the sun block and cover up. By using common sense and taking easy precautions, such as regular use of sun block and use of protective clothing, you can avoid sunburn - a leading cause of skin cancer.
Melanoma - A Growing Threat
In a little more than 20 years, the incidence of melanoma among men more than doubled and among women it increased by 50 percent. (Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer but occurs in only four percent of skin cancers.)
The authors of the report are Namratha Turlapati of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center and Professor George Reizner, MD
of the Department of Dermatology, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
Turlapati and Reizner note that unlike some cancers whose origins are unknown, lifestyle behaviors such as regular "sun tanning" are among the key behavioral factors that play a crucial role in developing melanoma.
On all days, including the shorter days of Wisconsin winters, even minimal sunlight still imparts harmful UV damage to the skin's vulnerable DNA. Increasing sun exposure through use of "tanning booths" or sun bathing sharply increases this risk.
Melanoma Risk Higher in Men
The authors noted that the incidence of melanoma is significantly higher among males than females. The higher incidence of melanoma among men is likely due to longer periods working outdoors in occupations such as construction and farming.
Men are also less likely to wear sunscreen or to take other protective precautions. Also, their higher rate of skin cancer-related deaths may in part be due to their reluctance to seek medical examination of skin moles.
Melanoma is 10 times higher among whites than among blacks. Fair-skinned people with red or fair hair color are also at greater risk.
"People should not get a false sense of security through the use of sun screen alone," says Dr. Reizner. "It does not block many parts of the light spectrum. Also, people using sun screen often stay out in the sun longer then they would without it. Wearing protective clothing and using common sense is essential."
Actions You Can Take to Protect Yourself
The Surveillance Brief, part of a series offered by the Cancer Control Program, highlighted the personal actions recommended by the CDC. These actions include:
- Protect Young Children
First, special precautions should be taken to protect young children. They are at heightened risk because sunburns at early ages create a long-term "burden" of potentially damaged cells.
- Avoid Unnecessary Sun Exposure
Second, avoid unnecessary sun exposure between 10am and 4pm and artificial sources of UV light.
- Cover All Exposed Skin
Third, cover all exposed skin with either clothing or sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher.
For an online copy of the Surveillance Brief, including charts and tables, go to http://wicancer.org/publications.html.
Date Published: 01/10/2008