Planning an escape to sunny shores? Travelers should be advised that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun plays a significant role in the development of skin cancer, and the concentrated sun exposure received during a tropical vacation is especially dangerous.
Your risk of skin cancer depends greatly on your cumulative lifetime sun exposure, but melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, has been linked most frequently to intense, intermittent exposure. This kind of periodic, concentrated UV exposure frequently causes sunburn and severely damages the skin. It is believed to also play a part in basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
“Prolonged sun exposure is always dangerous, so even those who are dedicated to protecting their skin need to be extra cautious in very sunny conditions,” said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation. “At any age, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has ever had five or more sunburns.”
Having numerous moles is a risk factor for melanoma, and a recent study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that white English women who vacationed in hot countries had 74 percent more moles than those who had never vacationed in tropical climates. The researchers determined that the association was greater in women who took these holidays between the ages of 18 and 29, and that their moles were more likely to appear on the trunk and lower limbs — areas typically covered up in everyday life and thus more vulnerable to sunburn and other sun damage from the intense exposure often sustained during hot-weather vacations.
If you’re fleeing the cold, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends protecting yourself with these warm weather vacation tips:
Cover up! Wearing more clothes may seem counter-intuitive at the beach or pool, but sarongs, long sleeves, and wraps will shade your skin and help keep you cool, as well as sun-safe. In addition, wearing swimwear like wetsuits and rash guards offer extra UV protection when you’re in the water.
Accessorize: Sunglasses that filter out the sun’s UV radiation will help protect your eyes and eyelids from conditions ranging from cataracts to macular degeneration, while a broad-brimmed hat (with at least a 3″ brim all around) will help protect the top of your head, neck, face, ears, and scalp by blocking as much as 99% of the sun’s UV rays.
Beware of Reflection: Surfaces such as water and sand reflect the sun’s UV radiation back at you, adding to the intensity of exposure. Seek the shade, or make your own with items like a large sun umbrella, and hit the hot spots early in the morning or late in the afternoon – you’ll avoid the crowds and save your skin!
Be Sunscreen Smart: A broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 is a must. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply one ounce, or two tablespoons, every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating heavily.
About The Skin Cancer Foundation
The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. Since its inception in 1979, the Foundation has recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use. For more information, visit SkinCancer.org.
Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes. Melanocytes produce the dark pigment, melanin, which is responsible for the color of skin. These cells predominantly occur in skin, but are also found in other parts of the body, including the bowel and the eye. Melanoma can originate in any part of the body that contains melanocytes.
It causes the majority (75%) of deaths related to skin cancer. According to the World Health Organization’s statistics, doctors diagnose about 160,000 new cases of melanoma and about 48,000 melanoma-related deaths worldwide yearly.
In women, the most common site is the legs and melanomas in men are most common on the back. It is particularly common among Caucasians, especially northern Europeans and northwestern Europeans living in sunny climates. There are higher rates in Oceania, North America, Europe, Southern Africa, and Latin America, with low rates in southern Italy and Sicily. This geographic pattern reflects the primary cause, ultraviolet light (UV) exposure crossed with the amount of skin pigmentation in the population.
The treatment includes surgical removal of the tumor. If melanoma is found early, while it is still small and thin, and if it is completely removed, then the chance of cure is high. The likelihood, that the melanoma will come back or spread, depends on how deeply it has gone into the layers of the skin. For melanomas that come back or spread, treatments include chemo- and immunotherapy, or radiation therapy.