By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
With temperatures on the rise, many people break out the swim suits and hit the pool, the beach and other spots they can work on the perfect tan.
But if tanners aren’t careful, that summer fun could lead to melanomas and other skin cancer.
Worse, “many people won’t recognize skin cancer even if it is in plain view,” said dermatologist Dr. Rebecca L. Bushong, which is where she and other experts come in.
During May, National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital will offer free screening days at its Cancer Center, 2020 Meridian St., at Holy Cross Medical Arts, 2101 Jackson St., and St. Vincent Mercy Hospital Specialty Suites, 1331 S. A St. in Elwood.
“With early detection and treatment there should really be no deaths from skin cancer — it is curable if caught early,” Bushong said.
But in addition to early detection, it’s important to know the major causes of skin cancer and what can be done to avoid them, she said.
The times, they are a-changin’.
Women’s itsy-bitsy bikinis have gotten itsy-bitsier over the past 100 years, shrinking from the 1910s’ long wool skirts to today’s string suits, often with less total cloth than a kitchen towel. And what little skin it covers isn’t always protected — in the 90’s, the ‘it’ thing was tan-through fabric that let swimmers bronze without going au naturale.
But skin cancer can’t be blamed entirely on bikinis, Bushong said. Other factors include heredity, how often your job requires you to be outdoors and the shrinking layer of protective ozone in Earth’s atmosphere.
And, of course, there’s the up-tick in the use of indoor tanning beds. According to the National Skin Cancer Foundation, just one session increases tanners’ chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent. Each successive session within the same year adds another two percent. It’s worst for tanners aged less than 35, the Foundation said, who can increase their risk by almost 90 percent.
“I personally believe that the advent of indoor tanning beds is responsible for an epidemic of skin cancer in young women,” Bushong said.
The perfect tan
For many tanners, “tan lines” are dirty words. Bushong agrees with that, but suggests a slightly different method.
“The goal should be no tan lines at the end of the summer,” she said. “Daily year round use of sunscreens is important to any skin that ‘sticks out.’” Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum with an SPF of 30 of higher, she said, and it should be reapplied every hour or two spent outside.
According to the Foundation, sunscreen helps lower the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers. It cites a recent 10-year study of more than 1,600 adults, which determined applying 16 SPF sunscreen daily reduced the risk of melanoma by half.
Bushong also recommends ditching tanning beds, wearing pants on cooler days, using hats and scheduling outdoor activities to avoid the intense midday sun. And most importantly, have yourself checked-out, she said.
Like Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @BayleeNPulliam, or call 648-4250.