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HEALTH Q&A

Skin cancer protection and prevention

Skin cancer protection and prevention

May 20, 2002|BY Christine L. Moats

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Over-exposure to sunlight's ultraviolet rays is the main cause of the disease, especially when sunburn or blistering occurs.

Fair-skinned people who burn easily are at particularly high risk. The best defense against skin cancer is to stay out of the sun.

Even if you don't sunbathe, it is important to use sun protection from a very early age.

It is estimated that 80 percent of lifetime sun exposure occurs before age 18. Teach your children good sun protection habits at an early age.

Sunscreen may be used on a child as young as six months old.

Early detection of skin cancer is very important. Create a regular routine to inspect your body for any skin changes. If any growth, mole, sore, or skin discoloration appears suddenly, or begins to change, see your family physician.

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Q:What can you do to prevent skin cancer?

A: Stay in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when ultraviolet rays are the most intense, especially when your shadow is shorter than you are tall.

- Wear light-colored, tightly knit, protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats (3-inch brim), long-sleeved shirts and pants as well as sunglasses with UV ray protection.

- Apply sunscreens with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 and follow directions on the bottle or tube. Sunscreen must be applied properly for it to be effective.

- Do not use tanning devices such as tanning beds.

- Do not sunbathe.

Sun facts to know:

- Harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun can penetrate residential and vehicle windows.

- The sun can damage your eyes and cause such problems as cataracts, macular degeneration, and eyelid cancers.

- When you're on snow or ice, the UV rays can cause twice as much damage to your face and eyes because of the reflected glare.

- The sun's harmful rays can penetrate many types of clothing.

Source: The American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org, and the Skin Cancer Foundation at www.skincancer.org

Christine L. Moats is wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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