Not much fun in the sun |

Not much fun in the sun

When a co-worker walks into the office, takes off his or her jacket and exposes painfully pink shoulders, arms and neck, it’s evident the weekend’s fun-in-the-sun mantra got out of hand.”I always burn before I tan,” is a common excuse for tender body parts.In a society obsessed with physical appearance, explaining dangers of tanning – or burning and then tanning – is difficult, said Ira Jaffrey, a medical oncologist at Western Slope Oncology.”The word tan should be stricken from the English language,” Jaffrey said. “Tanning is just a sunburn turning brown.”Sunburns and tans are the No. 1 source of skin cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and is caused by over exposure to ultra violet sun rays and accounts for nearly 50 percent of all cancer diagnoses, according to the American Cancer Society.Although summer’s just beginning, 910 cases of skin cancer have been diagnosed in the United States. Only four states exceed the number of melanoma cases in Colorado.”There are more cases of skin cancer in Colorado than in most other states for two reasons,” Jaffrey said. “One, we have a fair amount of altitude. Two, Coloradans have a very active, outdoor lifestyle.”For people living in altitudes of 6,000-10,000 feet, taking out the garbage yields more sun exposure than a day of bike riding in New York, Jaffrey said.This estimate is based off the notion that exposure to UV radiation increases by 4 percent for every 1,000 foot increase in altitude, Jaffrey said. For example, a person living in Glenwood Springs at about a 6,000 foot altitude receives 25 percent more exposure to UV radiation than someone living in Miami Beach, which is at sea level, Jaffrey said.Coloradans don’t realize what an at-risk group they are so they neglect using sunscreen, Jaffrey said.”Sun screen should be applied every time a person leaves the house,” Jaffrey said. Sunscreen strength is determined by sun protection frequency, or spf. Spf doesn’t protect people from the sun, it just increases the amount of time it takes for sun damage to occur, Jaffrey said.For example, if a person normally burns after being in the sun for 10 minutes, he can be in the sun 15 times longer by using a sunscreen with spf 15, according to the Mayo Clinic.This does not mean sunscreen should be applied with less frequency. To be safe, sun screen needs to be reapplied every couple of hours, Jaffrey said.Jaffrey wants people to understand that the sun is dangerous, and contrary to popular belief, tanning doesn’t make you beautiful, it just increases your susceptibility to skin cancer. “People need to remember that tanning easily means burning more quickly,” Jaffrey said. Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.comMayo Clinic sun protection tips:Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outsideCover all exposed areas paying close attention to lips, ears, nose, feet, bald spots and the part in your hairApply sunscreen underneath sunglasses, bathing suit straps and necklacesApply sunscreen thickly and thoroughly. A liberal application is 1 ounce – the amount in a shot glass – to all exposed skinReapply sunscreen every two hoursDuring peak hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., limit exposure to sunWear hats and sleeves that cover your bodyABCs of cancer awareness: Signs you should see a doctorA – Asymmetry. A mole is jagged instead of symmetricalB – Boarder. The shape of the mole looks like someone took a bite out of itC – Color. Be aware of moles that are more than one colorD – Diameter. A mole bigger than the eraser of a number two pencil should be checkedFor questions concerning skin cancer or to find out about cancer screenings, call the American Cancer Society 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit the Web site at

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