By Jason A. Smith
Henry Medical Center (HMC) is reminding area residents, as temperatures rise, to be safe in the sun.
The hospital is encouraging the public to take steps to prevent skin cancer.
Vicky Ayers, a registered nurse and community educator for HMC, said she is hoping to raise awareness, in the coming months, about skin cancer, calling it the most common of all cancer types.
"We know how people love to go on vacation, and get out in the sun," she said. "We just want to remind them of what they can do to prevent skin cancer."
Ayers added that the number of skin cancer cases has risen over the past few decades.
"Ultraviolet [UV] radiation is thought to be the major risk factor for most skin cancers," said the educator. "Sunlight is the main source of ultraviolet rays, although you can get UV radiation from tanning beds."
Ayers said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, together with the National Weather Service, has developed a UV index which measures the amount of UV radiation that reaches the earth's surface during an hour, around 12 noon each day. She said the hospital is seeking to educate children and adults with its sun-safety message.
"Being sun smart is an important part of having a fun, safe, healthy summer," said Ayers. "The American Cancer Society (ACS) offers the catch phrase 'Slip! Slop! Slap!... and Wrap,' to help you remember to protect your skin from UV rays."
The ACS slogan, she said, reminds people to "slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses," to protect oneself from the effects of sun exposure.
Ayers added that people should wear sunscreen and a hat when in the sun, and should avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m., and 4 p.m., to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
"You can use the 'Shadow Test,' to help avoid direct sun exposure," Ayers said. "If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun's rays are at their strongest."
She said sunscreen with a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, applied often and correctly, is most effective against the effects of sun exposure.
"Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outside," Ayers said. "To ensure full protection, apply one ounce of sunscreen during each application. Sunscreen should be applied every two hours or immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating. Children under the age of six months should not be exposed to the sun.
"Waterproof is better than water-resistant sunscreen," Ayers continued.
Too much sun exposure could accelerate the signs of aging, and could lead to a cancer diagnosis, said Michelle Nunnally, public relations specialist for HMC.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the two most common types of skin cancer are highly curable," Nunnally said. "However, melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous, especially among young people. About 65 percent, to 90 percent of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light or sunlight. Research shows that most skin cancers can be prevented if you protect your skin from UV light."
For more information about sun safety or the facts about skin cancer, call HMC's Community Education Department, at (678) 604-1040, or visit www.epa.gov.