Here comes the sun — and so should precautions

Rebecca Weitzel

Rebecca Weitzel

Even from almost 93 million miles away, the sun inspires awe. It produces just the right amount of energy for plants, animals and humans to survive; holds our planet in a secure orbit; and instills joy in our hearts as we open our blinds, walk in the park or enjoy a beach vacation.

As is the case with many good things, we pay a steep price when we get too much sun. My brother learned this the hard way a couple of years ago when, after being prodded by his wife, he scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist to investigate an odd mole on his leg. Much to his shock, it was melanoma — the type of cancer responsible for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. His wife, children, mother and siblings were alarmed. Would he be among those who die of melanoma — on average 117 people in Colorado every year?

Unbeknownst to us at the time, we learned my brother wasn’t so unusual. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, accounting for more cancer diagnoses than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in five people in the United States will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.

Fortunately, skin cancer is largely preventable. A few simple steps go a long way toward protecting ourselves from overexposure:

Avoid getting burned. Sunburns are nothing to laugh about. Every sunburn, especially for children, significantly increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

Never tan or use tanning beds. The ultraviolet light that causes a tan also causes skin cancer. And if that isn’t enough to scare you, it causes early wrinkling, too.

Wear sunscreen. Choose sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher and broad-spectrum protection. Why both? SPF only refers to the level of protection from UVB rays. To offer full protection, sunscreen must also contain such ingredients as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that block harmful UVA rays.

Don’t skimp. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people use at most half the amount of sunscreen they need for protection. For the average-sized body, an ounce of sunscreen, or the equivalent of a shot glass full, is needed for protection. Moreover, it’s important to reapply every two hours and each time you get out of the water or sweat heavily.

Wear protective clothing. Whenever possible, wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with 99 percent to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.

Seek shade. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest. If you must be outside, stay in the shade as much as possible.

While we each need to take responsibility for our health and safety, employers also have a responsibility to help protect workers from sun exposure. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends employers take the following steps:

Schedule outdoor work before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. when possible.

Provide break areas indoors or in the shade.

n Offer education and training to team members about the dangers of sun exposure, how to prevent overexposure and the signs and symptoms of overexposure.

Luckily for my family, my brother’s cancer was discovered early enough to have it removed successfully. This prompted the rest of the family to get screened, too, which resulted in my sister discovering she also had an early stage melanoma. We learned early detection saves lives.

One way you and your team members can detect melanoma early is to do self-examinations and look for the ABCDE signs outlined by the American Cancer Society:

A for asymmetry — when two halves of a mole don’t match.

B for border — when edges are irregular, ragged or blurred.

C for color — when the color is not the same all over.

nD for diameter — when the spot is larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser.

E for evolving — when a mole changes in size, shape or color.

It’s important to note not all skin cancers fit this pattern. So if you or a loved one has a suspicious-looking mole or skin lesion that doesn’t seem to heal, get it checked out right away. Don’t wait for disaster to strike.

Pay tribute to the sun by expressing gratitude for its life-giving attributes, but also taking precautions under its powerful rays.

Rebecca Weitzel is president of Good Life Wellness Solutions, which provides affordable, community-based wellness programs to small businesses. She’s also lead advisor in Mesa County for Health Links, a program of the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health. Contact Weitzel at 216-6390 or visit www.GoodLifeWellnessSolutions.com. or www.healthlinkscertified.org
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  • Marcus Sorenson

    There is vital information you need to know about sun exposure and melanoma. First sun exposure:
    Sunlight deprivation is the real danger nowadays, not sun exposure. Avoiding sunburn is a good thing, but avoiding sun exposure is not a good thing. Here are some facts you should know:
    A 20-year Swedish study demonstrated a 23% reduced risk of all-cause death among those women who used sunbeds (tanning beds).
    •Seventy-five percent of melanoma occurs on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to sun
    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.
    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as those who avoid sun.
    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
    •Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.
    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who avoid the sun.
    •Sun exposure increases nitric oxide production, which leads to a decrease in heart disease risk.
    •Sun exposure dramatically improves mood through the production of serotonin and endorphin.
    •Sun exposure increases the production of BDNF, essential to a properly functioning nervous system.
    More information: sunlightinstitute.org. Or, read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s new book, Embrace the Sun, available at Amazon

  • Marcus Sorenson

    There seems to be a misunderstanding here regarding the true causes of melanoma. Here are some things you should know:
    •Seventy-five percent of melanomas occur on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to sunlight.
    •In the U.S., as sun exposure has decreased by about 90% since 1935, melanoma incidence has increased by 3,000%!
    •As in the US, while sun exposure in Europe has profoundly decreased, there has been a spectacular increase in melanoma.
    •Men who work outdoors have about half the risk of melanoma as men who work indoors.
    •Increasing melanoma incidence significantly correlates with decreasing personal annual Sunlight exposure.
    •Outdoor workers do get numerous sunburns but still have dramatically lower risk of contracting melanoma.
    Here are more facts you should know about causes of melanoma:
    •Weekly meat consumption increases the risk of melanoma by 84%.
    •Daily fruit consumption reduces the risk of melanoma by nearly 50%.
    Please, stop blaming the sun for melanoma. Regular, non-burning sun exposure is extremely healthful.
    For more information: sunlightinstitute.org or read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s book, Embrace the Sun, available on Amazon.

  • Marcus Sorenson

    The idea that sunbeds have not positive benefits is in error. Consider the following:
    • Sunbed use is associated with increased vitamin D levels.
    • Sunbed use is associated with stronger bones
    • Sunbed use can cure psoriasis and eczema and tanning beds are often recommended by dermatologists.
    • Sunbed use more than three times yearly is associated with a 40-50% reduced risk of endometrial cancer.
    • Sunbed use is associated to lower breast-cancer risk.
    • Sunbeds are able to take winter vitamin D levels up to summer levels in a period of five weeks. Vitamin D is absolutely necessary to optimal human health.
    • A 20-year study demonstrated that both sun exposure and sunbed exposure reduced the risk of death; women who used tanning beds were 23% less likely to die of any cause than women who did not use them.
    • Sunbed use is associated with a reduced risk of clots.
    •Sunbeds can also help to build a protective tan, which prevents sun damage during sunny vacations.
    To learn more: sunlightinstitute.org, or read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s book, Embrace the Sun. Available on Amazon.

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