With the recent change higher temperatures in northern Arizona, many individuals are being exposed to the sun for longer periods while at the same time wearing less protective clothing during their outdoor activities. It's great to enjoy the outdoors as long as it's enjoyed in moderation and with certain protective measures to avoid the sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The sun gives off its most harmful UV rays during the peak times between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. UV rays penetrate deep into the skin, gradually destroying its elasticity, causing premature aging and contributing to skin cancer. Limiting sun exposure during these times, using sunscreen with a SPF factor of 15 or greater, and wearing wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and clothes made of tightly-woven darker fabrics provides extra protection from the sun.
In addition to the many sunny Arizona days, the sun's rays increase in intensity as you go higher in altitude, thereby placing those in northern Arizona at even higher risk. White, non-Hispanic men are at the greatest risk for developing skin cancer-six times more likely than any other racial/ethnic group. The most common type of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma which occur near the skin surface. Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer (five percent) although it is the most serious, accounting for more than 75 percent of all skin cancer-related deaths.
Individuals who have any of the following risk factors are at higher risk for developing skin cancer over their lifetime:
Long-term sun exposure
Presence of certain types of moles
Family history of skin cancer
Use of indoor tanning devices
Multiple and/or severe sunburns
Blistering sunburns as a child or teen
Certain chemical exposures to tar, arsenic, coal or paraffin
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone, especially individuals with associated risk factors, participate in regular skin self-exams to become more aware of how their healthy skin looks and feels. In addition to establishing an awareness and knowledge of their skin's regular appearance, frequent checking enables people to recognize any new growths or changes in their skin or mole appearances. The American Cancer Society recommends individuals receive a cancer-related skin examination at least once every three years for those between the ages of 20 and 40, and annually for individuals 40 and older.
Early detection is the best protection against skin cancer. The vast majority of skin cancers can be cured if diagnosed and treated early. For more information, contact the Cancer Center at FMC by calling 773-2261 or 1 800 854-7744, or visitCancerCenteratFlagstaff.com.
Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Relations, 1200 North Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.