Watch out for rays

The American Cancer Society predicts that more than 58,000 new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2005.

While skin cancer generally occurs in older people, melanoma, the most common type of cancer, generally occurs in people between the ages of 25 and 29.

The sun gives off three types of harmful ultraviolet rays:

• UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin, gradually destroying its elasticity,

causing premature aging and contributing to skin cancer.

• UVB rays can cause unprotected skin to burn and are thought to be the primary cause of skin cancer.

• UVC rays are deadly to plants and animals. Fortunately, the earth is protected by an ozone layer that absorbs UVC rays. Unfortunately, this ozone layer is thinning and allowing more UVC rays into our atmosphere.

Built-up invisible sun damage can lead to skin cancer and those living at high altitudes are especially vulnerable. The sun’s rays increase in intensity as the altitude increases. This can explain why Arizona has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.

Sunlight reflections also are intense, such as the reflection off snow.Also contributing to skin cancer are the use of sunlamps, tanning salonsor tanning pills. These types of tanning could cost you more than money.

Skin cancer is found in the outer layers of your skin and accounts for about one-third of all reported malignancies in the U.S.

Melanoma is the least common and potentially the most serious type.

People who have any of the following factors are at higher risk for developing skin cancer:

• Long-term sun exposure air skin.

• Presence of moles

• Family history of skin cancer

• Use of indoor tanning devices

• Severe sunburns as a child

• Non-healing ulcers or nodules in the skin

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, warning signs of skin cancer may include:

• Skin sores that do not heal

• Bumps or nodules in the skin that are enlarging and changes in existing moles (size, texture, color)

The Cancer Center at Flagstaff Medical Center, Northern Arizona Dermatology Center and the American Cancer Society are sponsoring a free skin-cancer screening on Saturday, May 21 from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Cancer Center, located on the West Campus of Flagstaff Medical Center. Dermatologists will perform skin-cancer assessments and provide education on how to stay sun-smart. For more information, contact the Cancer Center at 773-2261 or 800 854-7744.

(Lyndsey Adams is the outreach coordinator for the Cancer Center at Flagstaff Medical Center. Is there a health topic you’d like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Affairs, 1200 North Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC’s website at www.FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com. For more information, please see your physician.)

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