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Skin cancer prevention is an everyday effort.

Living and learning in the outdoors can be a tremendous experience. But for those don't respect the power of the sun, it's more likely to be tragic.

To put it simply, we risk skin cancer every time we go outdoors without protection. Any doctor will tell you there is no such thing as a "healthy tan." A suntan is an indication of damaged skin. Every exposure to the sun damages your skin, and the damage is cumulative over your lifetime. The dangers are particularly high for children. One or more blistering childhood or adolescent sunburns can double the risks of developing malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Current estimates are that more than 700,000 new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. One in six Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. If that's not enough to scare you, factor in our shrinking ozone. With the current rate of ozone depletion, it's estimated the next eighty years will see more than 300 million new cases of skin cancer, and up to 3.2 million will die from it.

We're talking serious stuff here, folks, so listen up. You owe it to yourself, your fellow staff members and all the children entrusted to your camp to think about sun safety every day.

The Best Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following precautions to lessen the chances of developing skin cancer:

* Minimize Sun Exposure, especially during the peak sun hours, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the sun's rays are the most intense.

* Apply a Sunscreen Liberally and Frequently and reapply every two hours when working, playing or exercising outdoors. A sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 is recommended for protection against skin cancer and premature aging of the skin, even on cloudy days when 80 percent of the sun's rays penetrate the clouds.

* Wear Appropriate Clothing during prolonged periods in the sun, including a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shin and pants.

* Beware of Reflective Surfaces. Sand, snow, concrete and water can reflect up to 85 percent of the sun's damaging rays.

* Avoid Tanning Parlors and Sun Lamps. The ultraviolet rays emitted by these artificial sources are similar to those in sunlight and can cause sunburn and premature aging of the skin and increase the risks of skin cancer.

* Protect Children by keeping them out of the sun or minimizing sun exposure, especially those under the age of six months. Apply sunscreens on children older than six months.

* Teach Children and Teenagers sun protection, since skin damage from sun exposure accumulates over a lifetime. The majority of damage from the sun occurs before the age of twenty.

* To Detect Skin Cancer at an Early and Curable Stage, examine your skin regularly for any changes in moles, freckles or skin discolorations. At any sign of a change, or the appearance of any new lesion, see your dermatologist immediately.

Selecting A Sunscreen

SPFs. The Sun Protection Factor in sunscreens refers to their ability to screen or block out the sun's burning rays. The SPF rating is calculated by comparing the amount of time in which protected skin will burn with the amount of time unprotected skin will burn. For example, if a sunscreen is rated SPF 2 and a fairskinned person who would normally turn red after 10 minutes of sun uses it, it would take 20 minutes of exposure for the protected skin to turn red.

While different types of skin burn at different rates, dermatologists strongly recommend a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater for all skin types. A fairskinned person using a sunscreen with SPF 15 would be protected from sunburn for a little over two hours.

Keep in mind that invisible sunscreens even those with high SPFs (they go as high as 50) -- do not prevent damage to the skin, they merely slow down the process. If you must be out in the sun for several hours each day, be sure to cover up as much of your body as you can. In addition, use a visible opaque (white or colored) sun block that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on high risk areas such as nose, lips and ears. These sun blocks will prevent all light from entering the skin.

Active Ingredients. To choose among active ingredients in sunscreens, one must know about the make-up of sunlight. Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays, UVB rays and UVA rays. The UVB rays are the sun's burning rays (which are blocked by window glass) and are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer. UVA rays (which pass through window glass) penetrate deeper into the dermis, or base layer of the skin. UVA rays in addition to UVB rays are the culprits in premature wrinkling of the skin and also contribute to sunburn and skin cancer.

PABA and PABA esters, the most common active ingredients in sunscreens, only protect against UVB light. Cinnamates, a frequent substitute in

PABA-free sunscreens, also only protect against UVB light. Sunscreens that also screen UVA rays must contain one of the following active ingredients: benzophenones, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and Parsol 1789 (also called avobenzone).

Note that the SPF on sunscreens only reflects the product's screening ability for UVB rays. At present there is no FDA-approved rating system that identifies UVA protection.

Application. For sunscreen to be most effective, it should be applied to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Apply the sunscreen liberally (one ounce is considered the amount needed to cover the body properly); pay particular attention to the face, hands and arms.

Sunscreens should be applied in the morning and reapplied after swimming or perspiring heavily. Even so-called waterproof sunscreens may lose their effectiveness after 80 minutes in the water. Sunscreens rub off as well as wash off, so if you've towel-dried or been in the water for longer than 80 minutes, reapply even waterproof sunscreen. And if you must be out in the sun all day, don't rely just on sunscreens for protection! Cover up?

For More Information

The Skin Cancer Foundation has worked directly with camps to help educate children about the dangers of sun. To receive a free copy of their pamphlet, "Simple Steps to Sun Safety," send an SASE to them at P.O. Box 561 Dept. SMP, New York, NY 10156; or for more information, call 212/725-5176.

The American Academy of Dermatology also can provide educational materials on skin cancer prevention. For a free copy of their pamphlet, "Sun Protection for Children: A Parents Guide," send an SASE to P.O. Box 4014, Schaumburg, IL 60168-4014.

In formation for this article was provided by the American Academy of Dermalology.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:An open letter to camp counselors.
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