The Social Diary ~
on-line magazine covering High Society ..& more
S's of Summer
the Social Diary Health Expert Columnist Ruth S.
Column #13, June 11th, 2006
Sun, sunscreen, safety, and skin
cancer prevention: It’s your typical summer story.
It was a usual getting ready for the beach
time. With bathing suit in hand, I went into my husband’s
bathroom to ask him to put sunscreen on my back. He began and
then said, “What’s this?” having found a small
dark something on my back that he couldn’t remember ever
Unable to see it myself, I asked “Is
it really dark, does it have uneven borders, and is it about the
size of the diameter of an eraser on a pencil?” These were
all the symptoms of melanoma that came to my mind in that instant.
Upon learning that the something met that negative criteria, I
called my dermatologist quickly.
Waiting a few days for an appointment
wasn’t comfortable, but there was nothing else to do except
repeatedly ask my husband whether the offending spot was still
there. It was.
Finally my appointment time arrived and
I learned that my something was called a barnacle, a mark that
might even fall off. But isn’t that disgusting name? It
sound as if I’m a static something that has been perpetually
submerged in water like pilings.
Barnacles on the skin are actually benign
lesions called seborrheic keratosis that don't ever turn into
cancer, They can look dangerous but in reality they are just annoying.
Other than hating the diagnostic name and
being grateful for the benign diagnosis, I realized that this
was the time for my skin cancer reminder to all my readers.
The three main types of skin cancer are
basil cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and malignant
melanomas—the kind I was worrying about. The first two grow
slowly and are relatively easy to treat. Melanoma, however, is
a fast growing cancer that spreads rapidly.
All three types of skin caners are typically
caused by over-exposure to ultraviolet light from sunlight or
Melanomas, sadly, can show up in adulthood
as a result of overexposure in childhood. There are other possible
causes of skin cancer such as radiation and exposure of a long
period of time to certain chemicals---paraffin, arsenic, soot,
creosote, coal tar, etc.
Most basal cell carcinomas occur on the
face, but they can be on other sun-exposed areas the upper chest,
or back. They begin as a small pink, pearly spot that is oval
or round in shape. As they grow they may change size and texture
and bleed. One thing they do not do is heal themselves so a trip
to the dermatologist is mandatory.
Squamous cell carcinomas are more common
on the head, neck, and limbs. They are usually fairly irregular
in shape, tough in texture and can be tender. Here again, see
Malignant melanoma is one
of the most dangerous kinds of cancer. They grow
and spread and must be found and treated quickly for the treatment
to be successful.
As the beautiful days of summer are upon
us, I beseech you to put on plenty of sunscreen each day and lather
it on your partner, your children and grandchildren. Further if
you’re at the pool or beach, one application is not enough.
The relationship between the skin and
the sun is somewhat mysterious. If you go out on a bright summer
day and spend an hour in the sun, you get a sunburn unless you
happen to have taken the time to get a nice gradual tan. The fair
skinned among us never get a tan, so they always get sunburned.
Unless of course they are wearing a sunscreen...
Most people use sunscreen improperly
by applying only 25% to 50% of the recommended amount.
Sunscreen should be applied liberally enough to all sun-exposed
areas that it forms a film when initially applied. It takes 20-30
minutes for sunscreen to be absorbed by the skin, so it should
be applied at least a half an hour before going out in the sun
A useful instruction is to reapply
sunscreen after 2-4 hours in the sun. However, one study has shown
that reapplying sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes after being in the
sun is more effective than waiting 2 hours. It is possible
that this time period is more effective because most people do
not apply enough sunscreen initially. Sunscreen should also be
reapplied after swimming, excessive sweating, or toweling.
Sunscreen should be applied daily. The
daily use of a low-SPF sunscreen (15) has been shown to be more
effective in preventing skin damage than the intermittent use
of a higher SPF sunscreen. So the four Ss remain summer, safety,
sun and sunscreen.
Ruth S. Jacobowitz is a
health advocate, lecturer, and the author of five consumer health
books and a lecturer on health matters. Her newest book
is Final Acts—a novel.
Visit Ruth at her web site www.ruthjacobowitz.com
to New this Week.........Jacobowitz
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