More Than Skin Deep: Skin cancer awareness

More Than Skin Deep: Skin cancer awareness

It might be the middle of winter, but how well protected are you from the sun? It's a question that you might want to think about because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Picture this: It's a beautiful, sunny day in the dead of winter. People are bundled up on the slopes at Bear Creek. They're wearing helmets, face masks, and goggles, but there's one protection many aren't wearing: sunscreen.

69 News talked to three skiers and snowboarders in a row, and here are their responses:

"I'm not."
"It's something I don't think about a lot in the winter but they have helmets on and goggles, so I feel like they're pretty well protected."
"Do I wear sunscreen right now? No, not today."

However, maybe they should think twice. The American Cancer Society says each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined.

Dr. Sanjiv Agarwala, chief of hematology and oncology for St. Luke's University Health Network, said, "Any cancer that arises from skin cells is skin cancer."

There are three basic types: squamous cell, basal cell, and melanoma.

"So the cells in your skin are either squamous cells and give rise to squamous cell cancer, then with sun damage you can get what you call basal cell cancer," explained Dr. Agarwala. He says those are the two most common types.

Then there's melanoma; the least common, yet most deadly. Dr. Agarwala said, "The skin contains cells that contain color or pigment called melanocytes and melanocytes give rise to melanomas."

He said the primary cause of most skin cancers is the sun, which includes the sun in the winter. "The biggest risk factor is the exposure to the sun that's intermittent and severe. In other words, causing sunburns, especially in childhood."

The best thing you can do, doctors say, is to slather on the sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher.

While we were at Bear Creek, we only found one person who was lathered up. Snowboarder Lindsey Vann said she was wearing sunscreen on her face. Why she was wearing sunscreen was quite a surprise.

"I've experienced skin cancer; it sucks. It's horrible being cut on and sitting there and wondering whether you have it or not," she explained.

She did end up having skin cancer, just like one in five Americans are expected to get over their lifetime, but she was one of the lucky ones. She said, "I had a spot removed on my arm. It didn't spread or anything."

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