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GUEST BLOG: The Power and Practicality of Sun Safety

shutterstock_242372626.jpgMay is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Guest blogger Brayden Forbes, Class of 2018 MD candidate at University of Utah School of Medicine, writes about the importance of education to those most at risk for skin cancer. He highlights efforts taken at University of Utah to reach students before they develop unsafe sun behaviors. 

When we think about skin conditions associated with teenagers, it is usually acne, warts, and athlete's foot that come to mind, not skin cancer. Sadly, skin cancer is more prevalent than many of us think. Once known as a malignancy of advanced age, skin cancer is now the second most common cancer diagnosed in female teenagers and young adults per American Academy of Dermatology statistics and facts. According to facts and figures from the American Cancer Society, approximately one person dies from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every hour in the United States. Alarmingly, skin cancer incidence has been increasing over recent years, most likely due to excessive tanning. It's estimated that more than 87,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2017 alone.

In my home state of Utah, we have the highest per capita rate of melanoma diagnosis and mortality in the nation. Our high altitude, Caucasian predominance, and outdoor culture creates the "perfect storm" for pathologic sun exposure and subsequent malignancy. In an effort to promote skin cancer prevention, the University of Utah Department of Dermatology established the Sun Safe education program for Utah students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The goal of this program is to encourage students to actively engage in skin cancer education in their own communities by having them create public service announcement posters and videos as part of an annual contest. The two major objectives of our program are to debunk misconceptions about sun exposure and promote sun-safe behaviors. While the following principles are taught to our youth, they certainly apply to people of all ages.

EDUCATION: The Facts

  • A "base tan" does not protect you from getting a sunburn.
  • Young people get skin cancer too.
  • Tanning beds are NOT a safe way to tan.
  • Up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate through clouds. You still need to protect your skin on cloudy or cold days.

PROTECTION: Sun Safe behaviors

  • Apply sunscreen regularly (at least SPF 30, broad spectrum UVA/UVB).
  • Seek shade when possible.
  • Wear protective clothing (long-sleeved shirts, long pants, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses).
  • AVOID tanning beds.
  • Vitamin D is most safely acquired through a well-balanced diet.

Let us remember, skin cancer is highly preventable through limiting excessive sun exposure and adhering to other sun-safe behaviors. It is our goal that we will all do our part to protect the skin we're in and educate others to do the same.

 

About the Author

braydenforbes.jpgBrayden Forbes is a third year medical student at the University of Utah School of Medicine, pursuing a residency in dermatology. He serves as the Western Regional Director of the Dermatology Interest Group Association and is the co-founder of the Sun Safe Utah Video Contest. Brayden is passionate about educating youth and being a devoted husband and father. 

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