Dermatologists and Skin Cancer Awareness Campaigns Encourage a Safe Approach to Sun Exposure By Guest Bag Lady Diane Essig May brings the full arrival of spring flowers and the promise of summer. It is the month when bicycle safety is stressed, nurses and teachers are officially appreciated and of course, mothers are honored. The season also marks the onset of longer days in the sun and more time spent pursuing outdoor activities like golf, swimming, biking and barbecues; all escalating the risk of damage to unprotected skin. So, with that in mind–May is also Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness month. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is now in its 25th year of collaboration with dermatologists on this program to provide skin assessments and help educate the public on the importance of sun protection and early skin cancer detection. (The earlier melanoma is caught – the deadliest form of skin cancer – the greater the chance of survival.) During May (and throughout spring), dermatologists are volunteering in clinics, offices and public venues to provide free skin cancer screenings to anyone interested. They are preaching early detection to help save lives. A pressing effort given the increase in the incidence of skin cancer-especially melanoma-in this country in recent years. Since the AAD program’s inception in 1985, over 2 million screenings have taken place and over 21,000 cases of suspected melanoma detected. If you are concerned about the rising costs of health care, think about this: Skin Cancer Awareness Month offers a perfect opportunity to get a free skin check-up. Everyone should take advantage. Find a skin cancer screening clinic near you. The dates and locations are updated on a regular basis. If none of the dates work for you, call your doctor and ask if he or she provides this free service or can make a referral. Or, ask where you work; many businesses offer a similar program through employee health services. Another option is to visit the Skin Cancer Foundation site for the dates and locations of their “Road to Healthy Skin Tours.” From March through September, the “Tour Bus” (a well-equipped RV with examining rooms) will be making stops in 80 cities in 24 states to conduct – again free – skin cancer checks. Dermatologists are volunteering their time to work on the bus providing full-body screenings. As public awareness of the dangers of sun exposure grows, the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) is also taking steps to further promote prevention of sun damage. New efforts focus on changing perceptions about what constitutes “healthy-looking skin.” Beauty experts know a glowing, natural skin tone looks best and the Skin Cancer Foundation wants to spread the word: Tanning (even in a salon) is not only dangerous but becoming socially unacceptable. Why? Because it damages the skin and affects appearance. Sun damage leads to lines and wrinkles, dark spots, loss of elasticity and radiance, as well as keratoses and cancer. Even self-tanning perpetuates the myth that a tan looks best. To achieve its goal, the Skin Cancer Foundation’s initiated the “Go With Your Own Glow” campaign, a public service program that strives to change attitudes about untanned skin; it emboldens women to accept and take care of their skin, whether fair or not. The Go With Your Own Glow site provides skin care information, celebrity endorsements (guess who goes with their own glow?) and even makeup tips, all to encourage women to love and care for the skin they are in. If attitudes and perceptions can be changed – a noble, but difficult undertaking – the incidence of skin cancer should eventually drop. This is a long haul, but a worthwhile effort; one that could save lives. So with Helios rising, take care of your skin!