Wear Sunscreen to Protect Skin

When thousands of spectators depart the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship after experiencing this week’s warm and sunny winter weather in Miami, it’s likely several of them leave with pink or red skin as a result of too much sun. Intense or accumulative exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sun exposure or tanning beds can lead to skin damage and accumulative exposure can cause skin cancer.

Players on Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tours are among the 2-3 million people diagnosed with skin cancer globally each year. Australian native Adam Scott, who currently has a 9th place World Golf ranking, had a procedure in 2011 to remove basal cell cancer from his face. A form of non-melanoma skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma affects the cells found in the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. It is the most frequently occurring type of cancer, with nearly 3 million new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, reports the Skin Cancer Foundation. While basal cell cancer is rarely fatal, it can be very disfiguring if left untreated.

PGA champion Rory Sabbatini had a squamous cell carcinoma removed from his face in 2010. Squamous cell cancer accounts for about 20 percent of skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Brian Davis and Aron Price are among other PGA players who have battled skin cancer, the disease that affects more than one in five Americans in a lifetime. For people who play golf for a living, sun exposure is considered an occupational hazard, classified as such due to being out in the sun up to eight hours a day.

Despite these high-profile cases and increased awareness about the dangers of sun exposure, treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by nearly 77 percent between 1992 and 2006, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Skin Cancer Statistics

The Skin Cancer Foundation shares additional statistics, including:

• Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
• Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 2.8 million are diagnosed annually in the U.S. Basal skin cancers are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow.
• The incidence of squamous cell carcinoma has been on the rise with increases up to 200 percent over the past three decades in the U.S.
• One person dies of melanoma – the deadliest form of cancer – every hour in the U.S.
• Melanoma is the only one of the seven most common types of cancer that has increased – 2 percent a year – between 2000 and 2009.
• A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.

As the official start of spring approaches this month, followed by summer – the time of year when the sun is strongest – medical professionals heed caution to patients about protecting skin against the harmful effects of the sun.

Sunscreen Guidelines

Healthcare experts agree the best defense is to use broad spectrum sunscreen. Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 40 percent and the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent, according to researchers at Northwestern University.

A broad spectrum label on a sunscreen indicates the product — when used properly — will protect you from the effects of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, says Alysa Herman, M.D., a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon affiliated with Baptist Health’s South Miami, Baptist and Doctors Hospitals. UVA rays are linked to premature aging and UVB rays are associated with sunburns — and exposure to both is linked to a higher risk of developing skin cancer.

Authors of the Northwestern University study add, “There is an ongoing need for physicians to educate their patients about the need for protection against both UV-A and UV-B radiation in preventing skin cancer and sunburns.”

Sunscreen Buying Tips

To make it easier to shop for the best sun protection, the American Academy of Dermatologists offers three quick tips:

• Look for labels that advertise “broad-spectrum protection.”
• Select products that offer a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
• Choose “water-resistant” sunscreens that advertise coverage between 40-80 minutes—after which you should reapply the product.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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