Dangers of skin cancer magnified in summer

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 25, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

As the days get hotter, it is time to think about the dangers of too much exposure to the sun.

Too much time in the sun, or even in a tanning booth, increases people's chances of getting skin cancer, or melanoma. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers and the American Cancer Society predicts that about 7,600 people will die of the disease this year.

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Many factors increase a person’s chance of getting skin cancer. People of all skin types and colors can get it. Some, however, are more at risk.

People who have moles (especially large ones or many), who are of fair complexion, have a family history of skin cancer or elderly people are particularly at risk. This time of year, though, everyone is at risk.

In general, try to avoid being in the sun too long, especially in the middle of the day. If you are outside for long periods of time, wear a hat with a wide brim and be sure to use sunscreen lotion or gel.

Sunscreen should have a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or more to block out the harmful rays of the sun. It should be applied to all body parts that will be exposed to the sun, including face, ears, chest, arms, legs, tops of feet and back.

For the best protection, sunscreen should be put on every two hours and should be reapplied after swimming or sweating. Use sunscreen even on partially cloudy days because the sun's rays are still strong.

You should also wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Wraparound sunglasses give the best protection.

It is also best to avoid tanning booths or sun lamps, especially if you are at greater risk.

Check your skin every month for marks or moles that change color. If you see a new strange-looking mark on your skin or if a mark you already have changes color or gets bigger, go to your healthcare provider to have it checked.

By taking some easy precautions, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from being exposed to a disease that can be deadly.