After skin cancer screenings plummeted during the pandemic, Sun City Dermatology officials are urging residents to get checked, giving out gift bags to patients who get screened
With mask mandates ending and COVID-19 seemingly on the wane, everyone is eager to return to a normal summer with pool parties and other fun activities in the hot Arizona sun.
“Not so fast,” said Sarah Neumann, the award-winning dermatology PA and founder of Sun City Dermatology.
She reminds everyone to get their skin checked in May for Melanoma Awareness Month. According to Neumann, one in three Arizonans get skin cancer. But routine cancer screenings plummeted during the pandemic.
“You really need to get that spot that’s been bothering you checked by your health care provider now,” Neumann said.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. To raise awareness, the practice is giving out gift bags of sunscreen and other samples to patients who get screened for skin cancer during May. Discounts on sunscreens will also be available. The practice is also giving free golf towels to new patients through June.
Melanoma develops in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma daily. In 2021, it was estimated that 7,180 deaths were attributed to melanoma. Melanoma rates in the United States have been rising rapidly over the past 30 years, based on statistics by the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Neumann said the precise cause of all melanomas isn’t clear, but exposure to UV radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds is known to increase the risk of developing melanoma.
“Having a glow may look great, but tanning beds especially radiate UVA rays, which can penetrate more deeply and damage collagen, the building block of our skin,” she said. “It’s estimated that indoor tanning may cause up to 400,000 cases of skin cancer this year, and the younger a person is when they start using tanning beds the more likely they’ll have problems later in life.”
One of the best defenses to preventing skin cancer is using sunscreen, but Neumann said the hardest part is getting people to use it. Studies show that 56% of individuals rarely use sunscreen, 35% never wear sunscreen and only 19% reported wearing sunscreen daily.
In addition to regular skin checkups, Neumann has other tips for Arizonans.
Avoid the sun during the hottest times of the day (10 a.m.-2 p.m.). Also look for broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB light — both types of rays that can lead to skin cancer. Choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which are physical, or mineral, blocks. These are safer for skin than chemical-based sunscreens because they are more hypoallergenic.
Apply a shot glass size of a minimum 30 SPF sunscreen for the full body 20-30 minutes before going outside and make sure to reapply frequently during the day if outdoors or in or near water. Invest in sun protective clothing that has SPF built-in and wear hats and sunglasses to protect your head, hair and eyes. Make sure to be especially vigilant with using sun protection on children as they have thin, delicate skin and are more susceptible to sunburns than adults.
Look for moles with changes in color, size, shape and texture. Sometimes the most serious problem areas aren’t as obvious as dark colored moles. Be on the lookout for small patches that resemble scratches or flesh-colored or firm bumps.
Residents who see something out of the ordinary should schedule an appointment immediately with their health care provider, according to Neumann.
“Early cancer detection saves lives,” she said.
Editor’s Note: Suzanne Jameson is Jameson and Associates principal owner.
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