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How To Avoid Sun Damage And Skin Cancer



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How To Avoid Sun Damage And Skin Cancer

DANBURY — One in five people will get skin cancer this year, with it being the fastest growing cancer in women ages 25–29. With that staggering statistic in mind, Danbury Hospital recently sponsored its annual Medical Town Meeting on “Sun Sense: Take the Burn Out Of Your Summer Fun.”

 “A tan is a sign of sun damage,” said Dr Beth Buscher, dermatologist at Danbury Hospital. Dr Buscher, who is a Newtown resident, spoke along with Laurence Sibrack, MD, chief of the hospital’s Section of Dermatology. Skin type, or the amount of melanin (pigment) one has, can make people more at risk for a burn, they said. Types I, II, and III are most prone, which usually freckle and burn, or burn first and tan later.

Sun damage can cause destruction to the skin’s structure, premature wrinkling, precancerous conditions, dilated blood vessels, and eye problems. It can also cause cancer.

Dr Buscher explained the types of skin cancer, which include basel cell and squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma, the most serious type. When found early, however, most types of skin cancers are treatable.

 Eighty percent of all skin cancers are basel cell carcinomas, she said, and appear mostly on the head and neck. They have a high cure rate, but people need to be mindful that they have a 40 percent chance of getting another one. Squamous cell carcinomas are also highly curable if found early. Melanomas are more deadly and account for four percent of all cases of skin cancer. Melanoma, too, is treatable, if found early, according to Dr Buscher.

 Prevention is the best defense, and the doctors recommend the importance of protecting oneself from sun damage, by using a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks out both UVA and UVB rays, preferably with an SPF 15, and Parsol 1789. Avoid the sun from 10 am to 4 pm, and apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out, and reapply often.

One of Dr Buscher’s biggest cautions was to avoid tanning salons, which are dangerous.

Dr Buscher also stressed the importance of doing a monthly self-screening for any mole or mark that looks suspicious on the skin. A yearly check-up with your doctor is also recommended, as moles and precancerous conditions can change from year to year.

The doctors also recommend wearing light, tightly-woven clothes to block out the sun, along with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. They also suggested knowing if any medications make you photosensitive, as more than 50 drugs can increase photosensitivity for some people.

 The doctors also recommended that people know the ABCs of skin cancer, which stand for Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color and Diameter. Moles should be checked when they’re asymmetrical, have ragged borders, have no uniformity of color, and the diameter is greater than six millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser).

 Self tanners, she said, are actually a good solution. They allow people to look tan, but avoid sun damage. Be mindful, she said, that this type of tan does no protect from the sun, and sunscreen still needs to be worn.

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