Proper protection and detection can allow you – and your skin – to live in harmony with the sun.
The Arizona Cancer Center’s Skin Cancer Institute will show you how this weekend.
Events to promote sun safety, awareness and skin cancer prevention will take place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, said Robin Harris, deputy director at the institute.
“Southeast Arizona has some of the highest skin cancer rates, other than Australia,” Harris said.
“Skin cancer is a treatable disease if found early,” she said. “Our goal is to make changes in the community.”
Arizona in 2008 had 1,380 new cases of melanoma, a skin cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the body.
“Melanoma is deadly. If you have a more advanced case, the survival rate is not good,” said Heather Hiscox, a cancer research specialist.
The event will feature skin cancer screenings days, Harris said.
Eight volunteer dermatologists will do full-body exams, and advise people with suspicious skin features to seek further medical attention, she said.
The skin exams can accommodate about 100 people per day on a first-come, first-served basis, she said.
Attendees also can get an ultraviolet photo of their face taken, Hiscox said. The UV photo can show underlying skin damage that is not visible to the human eye, she said.
A device will be available to determine the level of UV protection different items of clothing offer.
A number of activities are aimed at youngsters, including educational puppet shows.
Protection from the sun can come in many forms, said Lisa Quale, health educator at the cancer center.
Clothing can protect the skin from the sun, she said. Long sleeves and hats are important, and she said many people forget about covering their feet for protection, she said.
Umbrellas are also an effective way to stay in the shade wherever you go, she said.
Exercising outdoors early or late in the day will avoid the worst of the sun’s damaging rays, she said.
And sunblock is a must, she said.
Effective sunblocks and sunscreens should have an SPF – sun protection factor – of at least 15 and contain one of the following ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium oxide, avobenzone or mexoryl.
Sun protection should be applied 30 minutes before going out, and reapplied every two hours, or more frequently if sweat or swimming dictate, she said.
A critical factor in preventing skin cancer is performing regular self exams looking for suspicious growths, Harris said.
Factors to look for include moles with asymmetrical shapes, irregular borders, varying color, large diameter and changes in shape or color, she said.
A partner can help check moles and growths in areas where you cannot see, she said, or you can use a mirror for areas that are difficult to view.
The Desert Museum event helps kick off May’s national Melanoma and Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, Hiscox said.
IF YOU GO
What: “Living in Harmony with the Sun” events promoting sun safety, awareness and skin cancer prevention
When: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road
Cost: Free with regular admission to museum: $13 for ages 13 and older, $4.25 for ages 6-12 and free for 5 and younger.