Saturday, July 22, 2017

Preventing Melanoma

May 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Almost five million people are treated for skin cancer annually in the U.S. The American Cancer Society states that one person dies of melanoma, an ominous form of skin cancer, about every hour. The annual cost for treatment of melanoma is over $3 billion.

The good news in these grim statistics is that many occurrences of melanoma can be prevented with the proper precautions. According to Andrea Riley and Alex Reivitis, co-founders of Sunscreen for Life, the cliché about an ounce of protection being worth a pound of cure is true.

Sunscreen for Life and another non-profit foundation, Melanoma Education Foundation, have made it their missions to provide education about sun safety, proper sunscreen use, and melanoma prevention. Both the Melanoma Education Foundation and Sunscreen for Life share vital educational lessons about sun safety with middle and high school children.

preventing melanoma 2Sunscreen for Life (sunscreenforlife.org) was created by Reivitis and Riley last year in Los Angeles, California. Both are aspiring medical students currently working in the field of dermatology. “We started Sunscreen for Life to help make sure that the next generation adds putting on their sunscreen to their morning routine,” they state (their email responses to questions were joint).

Reivitis and Riley’s primary mission is to “spread the word about skin cancer prevention to our youth,” a goal shared by Steve Fine. He started the Melanoma Education Foundation in Peabody, Massachusetts after tragedy struck close to home. “My son, Dan, passed away in 1998 to melanoma. I started the foundation just a few months later,” says Fine, who acts as president and primary health educator.

The Melanoma Education Foundation’s goal is increasing awareness about the deadly nature of melanoma — it accounts for less than two percent of skin cancer but is the cause of the majority of skin cancer deaths. One way is by educating middle and high school health teachers; the foundation provides educators with a free one-session lesson that is easy to learn and teach. It provides information about early self-detection and prevention.

The foundation’s lesson is currently taught in over 1,300 schools throughout the U.S. Educational videos are its main component; middle school students are shown a different video than high school students. “The middle school video, Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve, includes an introduction to melanoma from the perspective of three middle school melanoma survivors who nearly lost their lives,” explains Fine. “The high school lesson features a video called My Melanoma Vlog. The student featured in the video talks about what she learned at a health exhibit and on her own about melanoma.”

preventing melanoma 3As the goal is saving lives, Fine is pleased to share that “There are examples of lives that have been saved (both students and teachers) as a result of using the lesson.” One such case is that of Adrianna, who received the melanoma lesson while she was an eighth grade student. A few months later she noticed a changing mole on her wrist. Being aware that was a dangerous sign, she sought treatment for what was diagnosed as an early melanoma (the mole was successfully removed). Mary received the melanoma lesson as a freshman in high school. In her senior year, her changing mole on her back drew attention and eventual removal of the melanoma.

Further awareness and education is provided by the foundation through a user-friendly website (skincheck.org). And Fine also conducts talks and facial skin analyzer screenings for area organizations and businesses.

Sunscreen for Life also shares an educational lesson with middle and high school students. As Reivitis and Riley describe, “We make fun, easy to understand presentations that are tailored to the group’s size and age of the students. We love working with all ages and we can accommodate various class sizes —even assemblies!” They also present an overview of sun safety basics at community centers and in front of local sports teams, where they include group activities and a short quiz.

As the great majority of mutations found in melanoma are caused by ultraviolet radiation, and research shows that a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she experiences more than five sunburns in a lifetime, Sunscreen for Life and the Melanoma Education Foundation aim to expand their sun-safety educational programs.

“We plan to continue getting into more schools and getting the lesson adopted in order to get our message across… that people should get to know their skin and check their skin regularly, which is once each month,” says Fine.

Boaters need to be especially careful about sun exposure; Reivitis and Riley note that boaters are bombarded by reflective ultraviolet (UV) rays while out on the water. These dangerous reflected rays almost double the amount of sun exposure.

As boaters are getting both the sun’s direct UV rays and the UV rays reflected off of the water, Reivitis and Riley offer their advice: “The number one thing boaters/anybody who is on the water should do is apply a physical block sunscreen to their sun-exposed skin at a minimum of every 80 minutes. Also, don’t forget to put sunscreen on your hands and feet!”

They further urge boaters to wear long sleeves, pants, broad-brimmed hats, and UV protective clothing to help avoid sun exposure and talk with their physician about taking an oral antioxidant supplement. “However,” they note, “this is not a substitute for sunscreen — think of it as a protective bonus!”

By Melissa R. Walsh


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More on moles and tips for choosing the right sunscreen
Ordinary & atypical moles: www.skincheck.org/Page2.php#moles
Finding melanoma early: www.skincheck.org/Page4.php

Choosing the Right Sunscreen in a Sea of Products
Melissa R. Walsh: If people are confused about sunscreen options (there are so many!), what would you recommend in order to help someone choose a product?
Alex Reivitis and Andrea Riley: There are so many sunscreens to choose from these days — the sunscreen aisle can seem a bit intimidating! We don’t blame you. Here are some guidelines to stick to in order to help you navigate through those crowded shelves. The active ingredients in your sunscreen should be exclusively zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Other ingredients such as octinoxate and oxybenzone are chemical sunscreens and are actually considered sun sensitizing agents. This will not provide you with adequate protection. You may remember reading that you need to wait 30 minutes for your sunscreen to start working. This is only applicable to chemical sunscreens because they rely on the chemical reaction in your skin to absorb the UV rays and change it into heat in order to work. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide a physical shield (hence the name physical sunblock) between your skin and the sun so it begins working right away.
MRW: What is the best type of sunscreen to use?
Alex and Andrea: The SPF (sun protection factor) should be at least 30. There is substantial evidence that SPF 30 provides you with approximately 98% protection; any SPF higher than that is just icing on the cake!
MRW: What type of sunscreen do you recommend for boaters?
Alex and Andrea: For our boater friends, we would recommend a water resistant sunscreen that won’t rinse off with a simple splash. Several brands are water resistant up to 80 minutes, including the Solar Protection Tizo, Banana Boat Natural Reflect, and Neutrogena Pure Screen. If you have a water resistant sunscreen that you love, make sure to double check that the ingredients are zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Also, some people dislike physical block sunscreens because they can have a thick texture and make skin appear very white; however, this is not a good enough reason to skip the sunscreen! Many sunscreen manufacturers are now making sunscreen with a sheer tint to offset the white color that is so characteristic of zinc. Solar Protection’s Tizo3 is a great tinted, water resistant option for both men and women. Sometimes in the heat of the sun, a cream or lotion-based sunscreen can feel very occlusive. Try a powdered sunscreen like ColoreScience mineral sunscreen brush. If you are actively swimming, sweating or wiping your face regularly, applying sunscreen sooner than 80 minutes is always a good idea.

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