Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

June 26, 2013

Skin cancer risks ramp up with summer

With the start of summer last Friday, cooling off by the pool might be your family’s first plan of action as the long days of Texas heat drag on.

But doctors urge caution when catching rays, as the rates of all types of skin cancer continue to rise.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the U.S. The more deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, affects about 75,000 Americans each year. About 9,000 people die from melanoma and 2,000 die from non-melanoma skin cancers.

The prevalence of skin cancers has gone up about 300 percent since the last time it was estimated in 1994, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin cancer is also the most common of all cancers, with more new cases annually than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined.

Cleburne dermatologist Dr. Wade Smith said it’s important to always apply sunblock 15-30 minutes before being exposed to the sun. Sunscreen should also have a sun protection factor of at least 30, he said, noting that exceptionally high SPF sunblock, like SPF 80, does not always mean better protection.

“Coat all the skin that is going to be exposed,” Smith said. “There should be a generous coat of your sunscreen.”

Smith said that locally there has been a definite increase in skin cancer over the last several years. Many of the people who have skin cancers in the Johnson County area developed the disease from spending long hours in the sun while working outside, he said.

“Other than the general things like protective clothing and sunscreen, it’s really important to at least once a year — or once a month if you have had problems — take stock of anything on your skin,” he said. “Whether you have something that is changing in color, size or texture. Maybe something that has been bleeding.”

Wade said that other ways to avoid problems include protecting lips and eye lids with an SPF 30 or higher. He said most sunblock has a shelf life of about three years, but sun-goers should check expiration dates on a regular basis.

“You know, being a dermatologist, it seems like there’s not an hour that goes by that we don’t see someone with skin cancer,” he said.

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