Extra protection urged in mountains
Early detection of skin cancer can lead to its cure, dermatologists say.
“See a dermatologist at least once a year, if not twice, and have a full body check up,” says Dr. Gregory Papadeas, a dermatologist and former president of the Colorado Dermatologic Society. “Do not burn and peel because that will set you up for melanoma. Two bad sunburns double the chances of getting melanoma. That’s why skin cancer is so common in this country.”
If a mole changes in size, shape or color, people should let their dermatologist know, Papadeas says.
“The majority of skin cancers can be treated with surgery when caught earlier,” he says.
If a lesion is very thin, a patient can be saved by cutting it out, says Dr. Stanley Rodier, a local dermatologist.
“In its deeper stages, melanoma has a tendency to spread through blood vessels to other organs, taking them over and leading to death,” he adds.
Wearing sunscreen with sun protection factor – SPF – of 15 or higher is vital for those living in the High Country, Papadeas says.
“And it’s very important to protect children’s skin because most of the sun damage that leads to cancer happens before the age of 18,” he says.
It is estimated that a significant portion of that damage also occurs when the sun is strongest and in the summer.
In a survey by the American Academy of Dermatology, parents reported applying most frequently sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to protect their children. And children using sunscreen spent nearly 22 percent more time in the sun on a weekend than children who were not using sunscreen, the study said.
Eagle County residents are more exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun because of the altitude and the outdoor lifestyle. For protection, dermatologists recommend:
– Always wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher
– Protect your lips and eyes
– Wear sunscreen with both UVA/UVB protection
– Clothing is great protection
– Wear wide brim hats to protect your face, ears and neck
– Wear sunglasses with both UVA/UVB protection
– Wear long sleeve shirts and pants
– Special fabrics with sun protection factor rating.
Look for moles or any spot on the skin with:
– Asymmetry: one half unlike the other half.
– Border irregularity: scalloped or poorly circumscribed border
– Color variation: from one area to another
– Diameter: larger than 6 mm (diameter of a pencil eraser)
– Enlargement: change in thickness
– The number of new melanoma cases diagnosed in the United States is increasing. Among white men and women in the United States, incidence rates for melanoma increased sharply at about 6 percent per year from 1973 until the early 1980s.
– Since 1981, however, the rate of increase has slowed to little less than 3 percent per year.
– About 8,000 people in the United States are expected to die from skin cancer this year.
– Since 1973, the mortality rate for melanoma has increased by 50 percent. Much of this increase has been in older people, mostly white men. More recently, however, deaths from melanoma are increasing less rapidly in white men, while it has leveled off among white women. The melanoma mortality rate has remained stable during the past 10 years, mainly because it is dropping in younger people.
– In Colorado the cumulative lifetime risk of melanoma is 1 in 35 for men and 1 in 61 for women.
– The 1995-99 Colorado melanoma incidence rate for men was 38 percent higher and for women 46 percent higher than U.S. rates.
– The Colorado melanoma incidence rate for non-Hispanic white men climbed 7 percent between 1995-99 and 2000 while the rate for women climbed 4 percent.
– Melanoma mortality rates for Colorado men for 1995-99 were similar to U.S. rates even though Colorado incidence rates were higher.
– Melanoma mortality rates increased 12 to15 percent from 1995-99 to 2000 in Colorado.
Sources: Colorado Department of Health and Environment; the American Cancer Society.