“Slip! Slop! Slap!” and Skip the Tanning Bed
In ancient times, May 1st marked the return of spring. The Romans honored Flora, the goddess of flowers, vegetation, and fertility, with outdoor festivities celebrating springtime. I don’t imagine the Roman Maypole dancers in 30 A.D. wore sunscreen. But we now know it would have been wise. Protecting our skin from the sun should be part of our daily health regimen. The American Cancer Society has designated May as skin cancer awareness month. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. According to American Cancer Society statistics, more skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year than all other cancers combined.
Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet light (UV rays). Skin cancers begin when the DNA of genes that control skin cell growth is damaged and cells grow uncontrollably. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. These tend to grow slowly and rarely spread to other parts of the body. About 2 out of 10 skin cancers are squamous cell cancers. These also appear on sun-exposed areas but are more likely to grow into the deeper layers of the skin and can sometimes spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. However, melanoma is more dangerous because it’s much more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not caught early.
The first Monday in May is designated as National Melanoma Monday by the American Academy of Dermatology to raise awareness about skin cancer. Their SPOT Skin Cancer™ campaign urges women to “check your partner, check yourself!” According to the AAD, women are nine times more likely than men to notice melanoma on others. The American Cancer Society recommends the catchphrase “Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap!” to help you remember ways to protect yourself from UV rays:
• Slip on a shirt.
• Slop on sunscreen.
• Slap on a hat.
• Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and skin around them.
• Skip the tanning beds and lotions
There is even a smart phone app developed by the EPA and the National Weather Service called the UV Index for planning sun-safe outdoor activities. This index forecasts the strength of UV light in users’ specific areas at the most potent times of the day. Learn more about this Index at www.epa.gov/sunsafety/uv-index-1.
We certainly don’t want to avoid the outdoors. Being active and engaging in physical activity is important for good health. But if we can adopt daily sun-safe routines, we’ve got it made in the shade! For further information about skin cancer, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at www.cancer.org or contact the SCV ACS office at 661-298-0886.
Mary Petersen is an English Instructor, longtime SCV resident, and two-time breast cancer survivor.
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