Shade Your Skin

Being aware of your body and taking preventative precautions is key to saving your life.

By Jill Case

Skin cancer affects people of every age and ethnicity, a fact that bears repeating since May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month.  

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, early detection is vital and life-saving. When skin cancer is detected early, before it begins to spread, the survival rate is 98 percent. However, if it goes undetected and spreads, the survival rate drops to 17 percent. The best way to ensure early detection is to have a yearly full-skin examination with a dermatologist, as well as be aware of any irregularities you find on your skin. In other words, if you see something, say something.

Dr. Daniel Ladd of Tru-Skin Dermatology says there is really no substitute for a yearly exam with a dermatologist. 

“People have this notion in their mind that they would know if they have skin cancer, and I think that’s a dangerous way to think,” Ladd says. “That’s what keeps people from going to the dermatologist. There may not be any telltale signs, or the cancer may be located where you can’t see it. You may be completely unaware that you have skin cancer.”    

Ladd adds that many people don’t really understand what a skin check involves, and many are surprised by the fact it’s a full-body check.

 “We ask patients to get down to their underwear for the necessary full-body skin exam. We’re going to look you over head to toe because that’s the way that we can find the most dangerous cancers at their earliest stages,” he says.

Some people avoid annual skin checks because they’re so afraid the dermatologist may find something that requires a biopsy. Ladd assuages the only part of a biopsy that’s possibly painful occurs during the injection of a local anesthetic. After that, the patient may just feel a little rubbing. Nevertheless, fear should not prevent anyone from visiting a dermatologist for this important exam. 

Skin-cancer Prevention Tips 

  • Avoid direct sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Wear hats and sunglasses, and cover your skin when possible.
  • Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen, one with at least 15 SPF that protects against UVA/UVB rays, on a daily basis. Use a water-resistant sunscreen with 30 SPF or higher when you’re active and/or in the water.
  • Have yearly professional skin-cancer screenings.

The Shade Project    

Lurleen Ladd and Kristen Albair are passionate about their involvement in The Shade Project. This local nonprofit organization (theshadeproject.org) is “dedicated to the prevention of skin cancer and skin-cancer-related deaths through sun-safety education, promotion of skin-cancer screenings and the implementation of shade in public spaces.”
The Shade Project creates awareness and offers screenings year-round. Here’s what the group is up to in the Austin community:

  • It will offer free skin screenings at various locations throughout town May 1, 16 and 26. Check the website for a list of participating locations. 
  • The organization donates free sunscreen for people hosting events in the greater Austin area.
  • It works with local schools and community organizations to develop, plan and build shade structures. 
  • It sends educated speakers to groups and schools to talk about skin-cancer prevention.

Both Ladd and Albair stress that screenings are vital. 

“Having a trained professional look at your skin is so important. He or she will notice things you may miss,” Albair says. 

The Shade Project’s screenings are available for free year-round, and are offered at varying times and locations, removing the barriers that keep many people from having a screening. 

The organization’s primary fundraiser, Down & Derby, takes place from 4 to 7 p.m. May 6 at Ranch Austin and is a fun way to help raise money for the nonprofit. For more information, visit theshadeproject.org/down-and-derby-2017.

Skin Cancer By the Numbers

  1. During their lifetime, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer.
  2. There are more cases of skin cancer diagnosed per year than the diagnosed number of cases of prostate, lung, breast and colon cancer combined.
  3. There are more than 4 million cases of basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, and 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma, the second-most common type of skin cancer, diagnosed yearly in the U.S.
  4. While melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, accounting for less than 1 percent of skin-cancer cases, it is the most deadly; an estimated 9,730 people are expected to die due to melanoma in 2017.

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Health & Fitness

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