Cancer Education: Sun Safety

With summer in full swing, we wanted to bring sun safety to your attention to make sure you know all the facts behind sun safety and so that you can take measures to protect yourself from the sun!

Why Sun Safety?

The big focus behind sun safety comes from UV (Ultraviolet) radiation. UV radiation comes mainly from the sun, but can also come from other sources like tanning beds. These UV rays, in excess and higher intensity, can damage the DNA in the cells in our body. Since UV rays cannot pass through the body, they radiate and damage our skin cells which causes skin cancer.

Basic Facts:

  • Skin cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from skin cells. Basal cell cancers start in the basal cells, and they’re the most common variation of skin cancer since they account for 80% of cases. Squamous cell skin cancers account for 20% of skin cases and start in the squamous cells.
  • Melanoma starts in the melanocytes, and these cells create melanin which gives skin its tan color. These tumors are usually black or brown and are most commonly found on the trunk (chest and back) in men, and on the legs in women.
  • The most common sign of skin cancer is an unusual sore, lump, blemish, marking, or change in a way an area of skin either looks or feels. The skin may become scaly or crusty or begin oozing or bleeding. Pain or discomfort are often involved as well and may not heal or get worse.

Studies of Sun Exposure:

Basal and squamous cell skin cancer, the most common types of skin cancer, and Melanoma are linked to sun related behaviors, such as:

  • Spending time in the sun for recreation (going to the beach)
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun in a swimsuit
  • Living in an area with high amount of sun
  • Suffered serious sunburns in the past
  • Having signs of sun damage to the skin, such as liver spots, rough skin patches, or thickened dry skin

 

Who is at risk?

  • People who get a lot of exposure to UV light are at greater risk for skin cancer; exposure at a young age is an added risk factor.
  • A person who has many moles is more likely to develop melanoma.
  • Whites with fair (light-colored) skin that freckles or burns easily are at especially high risk.
  • Melanoma risk is greater if one or more first-degree relatives (parent, sibling, or child) has had melanoma. Around 10% of all people with melanoma have a family history of the disease.
  • Men are about twice as likely as women to have basal cell cancers and about three times as likely to have squamous cell cancers of the skin. Before age 40, melanoma risk is higher for women; after age 40, the risk is higher in men.
  • Melanoma is 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans. Overall, the lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 2% for whites, 0.1% for African Americans, and 0.5% for Hispanics.

What is the best way to protect yourself?

  • The “Slip! Slop! Slap! Wrap!” rules are the ones to follow:
    • Slip on a shit to cover your skin
    • Slop on some sunscreen of at least SPF 30 on all exposed skin
    • Slap on a hat to shade your face, ears, and neck
    • Wrap on a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes and the nearby skin
  • Always be sure to check your skin regularly! The sooner skin cancer is found, the chances are better for successful treatment.
    • Make sure to learn the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks on your skin so you'll be well aware when there any changes.
    • Use a full length mirror in a well lit room, or a handheld mirror to examine the scalp, lower back, and other hard to see areas.

Ways to raise awareness on YOUR campus!

  • Do a “Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap!” race for sun safety. Divide participants into groups of four people. On one side of the field, place one of each of the following items for each team: an oversized T-shirt for “Slip on a Shirt,” a hat for “Slap on a Hat,” a cup of sunscreen for “Slop on Sunscreen,” and a pair of sunglasses for “Wrap on Sunglasses.” Each team sends one player down the field to put on the appropriate item. That player then runs back and tags the next person on their team. The first team to “Slip, Slop, Slap, and Wrap” wins!
  • Carry black umbrellas with sun safety messages and skin cancer facts painted on them around campus.
  • Play Holey Moley! Paint a face on a board, cut holes for moles, and play cornhole. Incorporate the ABCDEs of cancerous moles by asking participants to state the ABCDEs – asymmetry, border, color, diameter, elevation – before each toss.
  • Hand out shade caps and sunscreen at outdoor athletic events.
  • Host a sunscreen Slip and Slide. Don't forget to provide goggles!
  • Create a skin cancer information quiz:
    • Give everyone three minutes to complete the quiz.
    • Go over the answers and give a prize to the person who gets the most right!

No matter how you choose to have in fun in the sun, make sure you’re taking the right precautions so that you’re protecting yourself! 

Questions or comments? Reach out to Jazib- NCLT Cancer Education Chair at jazibgohar2018@u.northwestern.edu.