August 7, 2006
As people head outdoors
to enjoy the final weeks of summer, the World Health Organization
(WHO) has some words of caution...
"Around 60,000 people
worldwide die each year from skin cancer caused by too much sun
exposure, according to a new estimate by the World Health Organization
(WHO). The agency released a report Thursday detailing 9 diseases
and conditions caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and estimating
their impact on global health. Melanoma is the deadliest disease
caused by the sun, and the primary cause of UV-related disease in
the Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Japan and
Singapore. ... The report serves as an important reminder to take
precautions in the sun, said Martin A. Weinstock, MD, a professor
of dermatology at Brown Medical School and chair of the American
Cancer Society's Skin Cancer Advisory Group. ... The WHO report
lists solar keratoses (a type of skin spot that can lead to cancer),
sunburn, cataracts, cold sores, and pterygium (an eye condition)
as other diseases directly caused by too much sun."
While it is important to
take precautions at every age, many children and teens do not understand
"To disseminate information
about the importance of minimizing UV exposure during childhood,
CDC published Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer
in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Research and Recommendations Report.
Intended to help state and local education agencies and schools
play a role in reducing unsafe sun exposure, this publication includes
* Establishing policies that reduce exposure to UV radiation.
* Maintaining an environment that supports sun-safety practices.
* Providing health education to students.
* Involving students' families.
* Training health care professionals.
* Evaluating school skin cancer prevention programs." http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nscpep/about2004.htm
Educating children, teens, and their families about sun safety is
important, but it is also necessary to educate the teachers, coaches,
and school officials.
students spend a significant amount of time in the sun during school
hours and after school in sports and recreation programs, as well
as that unprotected exposure to the sun in childhood and adolescence
contributes significantly to the incidence of skin cancer, the state
legislature/state board/local school board intends that schools
shall take measures to protect student health. All students should
possess the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to protect
their skin from harmful sun exposure and thereby help to prevent
skin cancer. The state legislature/state board/local school board
further recognizes that skin cancer prevention is important for
all school workers, particularly for those who spend significant
portions of their day in the sun. Finally, the state legislature/state
board/school board acknowledges the essential role of family and
community involvement in the school sun safety program. It is not
the intent of this policy that schools eliminate physical education
or other outdoor programs during or after school. Students need
daily, vigorous exercise, but they also need to protect their skin
from overexposure to the sun."
The challenge can often be in finding a balance. Schools need to
balance the need for students to have "daily, vigorous exercise"
with the need to protect their skin from over-exposure to the sun.
It is also important that schools, teachers, parents, and students
understand that not all sun exposure is bad.
"The promises and
pitfalls of vitamin D deserve more research, according to the American
Cancer Society (ACS) and 7 other health groups. ... 'There is no
dispute among medical professionals that vitamin D is beneficial
for our health, and there is no dispute that sun exposure is the
major source of vitamin D for most of us,' said ACS deputy chief
medical officer Len Lichtenfeld, MD, who participated in the conference.
'But there is also no dispute that exposure to ultraviolet (UV)
rays from the sun and other sources can be harmful. ... If vitamin
D is good for you, and exposure to the sun is bad for you, what
do you do?' Lichtenfeld explained."
What do you do? The advice
can be confusing.
"The use of sunscreens
has become controversial lately, said Wolf. Some experts are concerned
that people will extend their stays in the sun because they are
convinced that the sunscreen will protect them. 'If you were ordinarily
going to spend two hours in the sun and you use a sunscreen before
going out for your two hours, the sunscreen will help you,' he said.
If you ordinarily spend two hours in the sun, but when you use sunscreen,
you end up spending six hours in the sun, you could end up with
damage you might not have had."
Even as improvements are
made, no one sunscreen can offer complete protection and make time
in the sun 100% safe. There is always new research; there is always
new technology; there are always new products. The new sunscreens
may offer more thorough protection, but even they are not perfect.
"The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) approved Anthelios SX, an over-the-counter
sunscreen that offers protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and
ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. Most sunscreens sold in the United
States mainly block UVB rays, which helps prevent sunburn and other
types of skin damage. But Anthelios offers better protection from
deeper penetrating UVA rays, according to the manufacturer. ...
What does this mean to you? Anthelios offers various advantages
to traditional sunscreens. ... And there's more to skin protection
than sunscreen. In addition to using a broad-spectrum sunscreen
with a sun protection factor of at least 15, it's important to limit
your time in the sun -- especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when
the sun's harmful rays are strongest. When you're outdoors, wear
a broad-rimmed hat and tightly woven clothing that covers your arms
and legs. Avoid tanning beds and tan-accelerating
products. 'No sunscreen is a substitute for avoiding the most intense
sun of the day and wearing appropriate
clothing,' Dr. Gibson says."
Some might contend that
"appropriate clothing" is a t-shirt and shorts. Others
might say that a long sleeve shirt and long pants are necessary
for appropriate protection. Still others argue that only clothes
made of fabric that is specifically designed to protect the wearer
from the sun will do.
"The January 2001
edition of ASTM Standardization News announced the USA standards
for sun protective fabrics... now the most stringent UV-protective
clothing standards in the world! The new units for UV protection
are called UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). UPF is like the
sun protective factor SPF used on sunscreen lotion bottles and fabrics
today, in that both UPF and SPF measure sunburn protection. One
difference between UPF ratings and SPF ratings is that UPF measures
both UVB and UVA radiation blocked. SPF is a measurement of UVB
radiation only. UPF rated fabric requires that fabrics claiming
to be sun protective must be prepared in the following ways before
1. Undergo 40 simulated launderings
2. Be exposed to 100 fading units of simulated sunlight (equivalent
to 2 years light exposure)
3. And, if intended for swim wear, exposure to chlorinated water"
Sunscreen has its limits,
and not everyone wants to spend their time in the sun completely
covered in protective clothing. Even with all the new products on
the market, the best way to protect the skin from sun damage is
knowing when to head for the shade.
"As the bikini turns
60, it's entering the electronic age with a new model featuring
a built-in alarm to warn wearers to get out of the sun -- and ease
concerns that the scanty swimsuits damage the health. ... So Canadian
company Solestrom has come up with a new bikini that goes on sale
next month with a UV meter built into its belt and an alarm that
beeps to tell wearers when to head to the shade. 'There's so much
concern about sun exposure and skin cancer that we saw the demand
and designed something to be safe for the wearer,' Solestrom spokeswoman
Emily Garassa said. Garassa said the meter on the $190 bikini displays
a level of UV intensity on a scale from 0 to 20. A person's sensitivity
to UV depends mainly on skin type, but generally three to five would
be considered moderate strength, 8-10 very high and anything above
11 extreme. Garassa said the company was already seeing high demand
from Australia and South Africa, which have the world's highest
skin cancer rates. The United States has about 1 million new skin
cancer cases each year." CNN.com
Questions of the Week:
How can you get the vitamin D that you need without damaging your
skin? How can you protect yourself from the sun without spending
a lot of money on special products? What do your friends, peers,
and family members need to know about the benefits and hazards associated
with exposure to the sun? What would be the best way to educate
children with what they need to know in order to make healthier
choices about sun exposure? What would you do differently (and what
would be the same) if you wanted to reach teens or adults with that
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum