Skin cancer danger greater in Colorado
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Dedication: To the memory of Gene Yellico, “the mayor of West Glenwood”
May came and went without most of us knowing that it was skin cancer awareness month. With all the cloudy, dreary, rainy weather we have had the past weeks, skin cancer may be far from our minds.
For those of us who love to be outdoors now is a good time to make sure we are prepared for the coming sunny summer.
Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer with estimates from 600,000 to more than one million cases reported each year in the United States.
Of course most of these cancers are caused by exposing ourselves to too much of the sun’s ultraviolet rays although the improper use of tanning beds is suspected in some cases. It makes sense that parts of the body that aren’t clothed account for 90 percent of skin cancers.
Melanoma, the malignant form of skin cancer, is responsible for only five percent of all cases yet it causes 77 percent of all skin cancer deaths according to the American Cancer Society. It now appears that the risk of developing melanoma over a person’s lifetime is on the rise.
Recent studies say that one or more early blistering sunburns during childhood can be a major factor in melanoma developing later in life.
The chances of getting melanoma are significantly higher in Colorado than in the rest of the U.S. as a whole. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment the rate of occurrence of melanoma among Colorado men was 38 percent higher than the national rate, and for Colorado women, 46 percent higher.
The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10:00 and 4:00. our valley’s elevation being over a mile, there is less atmosphere to block the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Remember you can even get sunburned on a cloudy day since 80 percent of the sun’s rays penetrate the clouds.
You can protect yourself from skin cancer in a number of ways. Wear a wide-brimmed hat rather than the typical base-ball type billed cap that does not cover the ears. Wearing long-sleeved pants and shirts also helps.
Those of us not living under a rock know to put sun screen on all exposed skin when outdoors. But what most of us don’t do is reapply it at regular intervals.
Check your skin regularly to detect melanomas or other skin cancers by using the following A-B-C-D skin self-examination method, adapted from the American Academy of Dermatology:
• A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
• B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders – the characteristics of melanomas.
• C is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
• D is for diameter. Look for growths that are larger than about 1/4 inch.
Contact your doctor if suspicious changes have occurred in suspected moles.
Have fun in the sun this summer but do so safely.
With more than 30 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, has shared his stories with readers for more than 15 years. Bill’s column will appear once per month, on the second Saturday of the month, in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
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