Health experts urge summer skin safety

By Jason A. Smith


Health educators at Henry Medical Center (HMC), along with pharmacy professionals, are encouraging area residents to exercise caution and safety, when participating in outdoor, recreational activities this summer.

"We tend to focus on this during the summer months, but protecting your skin should be a year-round practice," said HMC's Public Relations Specialist Michelle Nunnally. "There is a real risk of skin cancer, but it's a risk you can minimize. Skin cancer can be prevented by protecting your skin with sunscreen," Nunnally wrote in a statement for the hospital, regarding the dangers of excessive exposure to the sun. Sunburns, she said, can accelerate the signs of aging, and can lead to cancer.

HMC's Community Education Department is working to emphasize safety this summer, including protection against sunburns. "According to the [U.S.] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the two most common types of skin cancer are highly curable," Nunnally added. "However, melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous, especially among young people."

Officials warned that 65 to 90 percent of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, or sunlight.

"Research shows that most skin cancers can be prevented, if you protect your skin from UV light," Nunnally continued. "Sunscreens help prevent the sun's UV rays from reaching the skin."

Rite Aid pharmacy is conducting a nationwide program, in conjunction with the Skin Cancer Foundation, to educate the public on skin cancer awareness. Dr. Mark Carmon, pharmacy manager of the Rite Aid at 1799 Briarcliff Road in Atlanta, said occurrences of skin cancer have been on the increase in recent years, adding that approximately 3.5 million cases of the disease are diagnosed nationally each year.

"It's more common than breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer or colon cancer," said Carmon. "One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime."

The pharmacy manager advocated the use of sunless tanning creams, and using sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher, to minimize cancer risks.

Eric Harkreader, a spokesman for Rite Aid's office in Camp Hill, Penn, said dermatologists recommend applying sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going into the sunlight, to minimize the risk of sunburns or skin cancer.

"A lot of people tend to slather it on right before they go out into the sun," Harkreader said. "For the sunscreen to be fully effective, it needs time to sink into the skin."

Harkreader added that some medicines can be impacted by the sun, making it easier for individuals taking those medications to get burned. Those individuals, he said, should apply extra sunscreen while taking those medications.

For more information, call HMC's Community Education Department, at (678) 604-1040.