Save your skin - cover it up

June 16, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

New strategies that fight against skin cancer include sun-protective clothing and laundry rinses, and tougher rules for teenage tan seekers in Maryland.

The tactics come at a time when skin cancer rates are going up, though rates of cancer as a whole have been going down, according to the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Trends Progress Report for 2007.

National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes for Health, estimates there will be more than a million new cases of skin cancer in the U.S. in 2008.

In Maryland, there were 1,185 cases of melanoma - about 22 people for every 100,000 residents - in 2002, the most recent data available. The rate was 23.7 for Washington County that year, said Donna Gugel, director of Maryland's Center for Cancer Surveillance and Control.


Maryland legislators passed a bill that would prohibit minors from using tanning beds without parental consent. The law takes effect Oct. 1.

Nationally, businesses are joining the fight against skin cancer., a clothing brand recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation, sells sun-protective clothing items such as cotton shirts, hoodies, dress shirts and embroidered tunics. The company sells clothes for men, women and kids.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has also given its seal of approval to a product called SunGuard. Think of it as sunblock for your clothes. Once added to the laundry, SunGuard, according to the product's Web site, will block 96 percent of the sun's harmful rays.

Dr. Tania Crussiah, a family doctor at Williamsport Family Practice, said she was less familiar with some of the high-tech goods on the market. She said common-sense measures like wearing sunscreen, hats and sunglasses that block UV rays are tried-and-true methods.

Though all people need to protect thier skin from the sun, Crussiah said people with fair skin, hair and eyes - she used Nicole Kidman as an example - are at greater risk for sun damage.

Scientists are debating whether people should avoid the sun altogether. Vitamin D has been dubbed the sunshine vitamin because you can get it from sunshine. Some scientists blame vitamin D deficiency on lack of sun exposure, while other groups, such as the American Academy of Dermatology, say the risks of UV exposure isn't worth it.

Crussiah said the "everything in moderation" adage applies to sun exposure.

"Long ago we used to worship the sun and we got our vitamin D, but we got skin cancer," Crussiah said. "Now we avoid the sun at all costs and we are vitamin D deficient."

She said 20 minutes of sun exposure is a moderate amount.

"It's not like you have to go out in the sun every day," Crussiah said.

Nine ways to protect your skin from the sun

· Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

· Do not let yourself burn.

· Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.

· Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.

· Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours.

· Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

· Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies older than 6 months.

· Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.

· See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

- Source: Skin Cancer Foundation,

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