Well I hear something ridiculous on the radio this week and I just had to laugh. A health byte on air stated that men who spend more time in the sun have a decreased risk of prostate cancer. Exposure to the sun encourages production of Vitamin E in the skin which attacks the evil cancer cells that cause prostate cancer. In the next comment they warned that extensive exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer.Ok, so correct me if I'm wrong...being in the sun prevents one type of cancer and at the same time encourages another? How dumb is that! Steups. I did some research and apparently exposure to the sun also helps prevent other cancers such as colon, breast, as well as bone diseases.
Well seeing that I can't get prostate cancer anyway I guess I should use this opportunity to inform the masses on the dangers of skin cancer when jumping in the blazing Carnival sun. As a person of colour, I am extremely guilty of neglecting to put on sunscreen when I am spending some time outside. But in this day and age with the size of that hole in the ozone layer I guess even I can't be too careful. The following is taken off of www.webmd.com :
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the U.S. and the number of cases continues to rise. It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. This rapid growth results in tumors, which are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are less serious types and make up 95% of all skin cancers. Also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early. Melanoma, made up of abnormal skin pigment cells called melanocytes, is the most serious form of skin cancer and causes 75% of all skin cancer deaths. Left untreated, it can spread to other organs and is difficult to control.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer, but UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful. Exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime.
Cumulative sun exposure causes mainly basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, while episodes of severe sunburns, usually before age 18, can cause melanoma later in life. Other less common causes are repeated X-ray exposure and occupational exposure to certain chemicals.
Who Is at Risk for Skin Cancer?
Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have fair or freckled skin that burns easily, light eyes and blond or red hair. Darker skinned individuals are also susceptible to all types of skin cancer, although their risk is substantially lower.
Aside from complexion, other risk factors include having a family history or personal history of skin cancer, having an outdoor job and living in a sunny climate. A history of severe sunburns and an abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles are risk factors unique to melanoma.
What Are the Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole or skin lesion or a change in an existing mole.
Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face ears and neck; or as a flat, pink/red- or brown- colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly flat lesion that may itch, bleed and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.
When looking for melanoma, think of the ABCD rule that tells you the signs to watch for:
- Asymmetry - the shape of one half doesn't match the other
- Border - edges are ragged or blurred
- Color - uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue
- Diameter - A significant change in size (greater than 6mm)
How is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?
Skin cancer is diagnosed only by performing a biopsy. This involves taking a sample of the tissue, which is then placed under a microscope and examined by a dermatopathologist, or doctor who specializes in examining skin cells. Sometimes a biopsy can remove all of the cancer tissue and no further treatment is needed.
How is Skin Cancer Treated?
Treatment of skin cancer is individualized and is determined by the type of skin cancer, its size and location and the patient's preference.
Standard treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas) include:
- Mohs surgery (for high-risk non-melanoma skin cancers) – excision of cancer and some extra tissue
- Electrodesiccation and curettage – physically scraping away the skin cancer cells followed by electrosurgery
- Cryosurgery or freezing
- Laser therapy
- Drugs (chemotherapy, retinoids)
Standard treatments for melanoma skin cancer include:
- Wide surgical excision
- Sentinel lymph node mapping (for deeper lesions) – to determine if the melanoma has spread to local lymph nodes
- Drugs (chemotherapy, biological response modifiers)
- Radiation therapy
- New methods in clinical trials are sometimes used to treat skin cancer.
How Can I Help Prevent Skin Cancer?
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Your skin does change with age -- for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal, but you can delay these changes by staying out of the sun. Follow these tips to help prevent skin cancer:
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every few hours thereafter.
- Select cosmetic products and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
- Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Eighty percent of a person's lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18. As a parent, be a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child.
So take care when jumping up in the sun this Carnival. I personally reccommend the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry touch Sun Block which is light and not greasy and has a high SPF. Most people inevitably get burned anyway and for after sun relief I love Hawian Tropics' Cucumber Melon Soothing Aloe Vera.
Of course there are still two sides to this story:
There are some doctors who claim that people who over protect themselves from the sun are at greater risk for these diseases because dermatologists have scared them out of the sun. Since skin manufactures vitamin D in response to ultraviolet (UV) light, they explain, the simple solution to the deficiency is 5-10 minutes of unprotected UV exposure from the sun or tanning machines two or three times a week.
Most dermatologists and cancer groups including The Skin Cancer Foundation have argued strongly against this "solution," since all unprotected UV exposure contributes to cumulative skin damage, accelerating aging and increasing our lifetime risk of skin cancer. (link) And a new analysis from the Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, supports this stance.
The authors, Deon Wolpowitz, MD, PhD, and Barbara A. Gilchrest, MD, reviewed massive research on vitamin D and sun exposure. They found that in regions where people have greater sun exposure, fewer cases of colon cancer occur (presumably because of sun-induced vitamin D), and fewer deaths occur from colon, breast, and prostate cancers. However, they pointed out that UV is an officially recognized environmental carcinogen. There has been "a near epidemic" of skin cancers, (link to something) they say, with more than 1.3 million diagnosed yearly in the U.S.— and the cause of most is sun exposure.
All of this back and forth is somewhat exasperating! Damned if you do and damned if you don't! Well I have already concluded that everything causes cancer and I will probably die form one sort or other eventually so live life be happy.