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Get outside, but know these sun safety tips first

Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center reminds Oregonians that it is important to keep sun safety tips in mind — particularly since Oregon and Washington have some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the country.

“Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Walter Quan Jr., M.D., melanoma specialist and chief medical oncologist at Western. “With months of rain and a population that tends to have fairer skin, it’s easy for people in the Pacific Northwest to underestimate their risk for developing skin cancer by overexposure to the sun.”

Quan has outlined below precautions that individuals can take to limit sun exposure and the risk of developing melanoma.

Sun tanning and sunburn

n Perform outdoor activities before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m. to avoid high-risk hours.

n Tanned skin is damaged by the sun’s radiation. People of all ages should limit their exposure to the sun’s rays.

n Avoiding sun tanning will help skin appear younger for longer.

n When your tan fades, your skin is trying to heal the damage caused by sun exposure. However, your skin never forgets what happens. Radiation damage is cumulative over the course of years.

n People at any age must avoid getting sunburned.

n Even one incidence of sunburn places a person at risk for skin cancer in their lifetime. One sees the effect of the sun exposure perhaps 30 years after the event.

Sunscreen

n Children should learn to wear sunscreen at a young age, preferably under the age of 10.

n The higher the SPF the better, but sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 15.

The ABCDE’s of skin cancer

See your dermatologist for moles or skin changes that are:

n A — Asymmetric

n B — Borders that are irregular or ragged rather than smooth

n C — Color variation in the same mole (a mole that is more than one color or if you notice that a mole has changed color, particularly if it has become black or dark)

n D — Diameter of more than 6 millimeters, that is, a new or enlarging mole that is larger around than the eraser on a No. 2 pencil

n E — Elevation or heaping up of a pre-existing mole

Skin cancer usually does not hurt. If you or someone you know notices a new skin lesion/mole or a change in something you have had before, see your doctor or dermatologist right away. In the case of children, you should take them to their pediatrician as soon as possible.

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