The 2012 edition of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal features medically reviewed, reader-friendly articles such as tanning, the increasing incidence of skin cancer diagnoses among young women, & the prevalence of melanoma among white males over 50.
Issue link: http://skincancer.epubxp.com/i/319518
W hen young people start to spread their wings, their quest for independent adventure can put them at high risk. One carefree, unprotected day in the sun, for ex- ample, can multiply their odds of developing skin cancer. Dermatologist Linda Franks, MD, vividly remem- bers when her 12-year-old daughter, Katie, came home from a day with friends at the commu- nity pool. She had a bright red blistering sun- burn. "Since it was cloudy, she hadn't thought she needed sunscreen," Franks recalls. Six years later, when Katie returned home from college at age 18, she showed her mother a mole where the back of her thigh and buttocks met—in the exact spot of the sunburn from the day at the pool. "It didn't have any of the ABCD warning signs of melanoma (asymmetry, irregu- lar borders, color dif erentiation, and large diameter)," says Dr. Franks. "But it did have the E, for evolution or change. It was new, and Katie just didn't like it." The next day, Katie had the mole biopsied. It proved to be a very thin (.39 mm) early-stage melanoma. "Hearing that num- ber was a huge relief," says Dr. Franks. "Had it been over 1 mm, I would have had to sit down." As Dr. Franks explains, about 98 per- cent of early-stage melanomas are completely curable, but a melano- ma over 1 mm may be considered stage II, calling for a lymph node biopsy to see if it has spread. Two years since the melanoma was removed, Katie remains cancer- free. "Kids at her age feel invincible, but after an unfortunate lesson early in life, she's on the bandwagon now about sun safety," says Dr. Franks. "In fact, none of my four daughters will go out of the house without sun protection. They also warn classmates who visit tanning salons that they are in- creasing their risk of skin cancer." Franks shares her daughter's experience with other young patients, stressing that UV rays from the sun and tanning machines can cause premature aging as well as skin cancer. "You have to make young people aware, because skin can- cer is becoming a younger phenomenon. I hit all parts of their psyche where they might relate," she says. "I tell them how happy they will be 20 years from now if they don't have to worry about wrinkles and sun damage." The single most important mes- sage, she says, is Do not burn. "If you ask somebody to give up all outdoor exposures, especially a teen, you've al- ready lost them. Instead, we tell them, 'We know you're going to be out in the sun—so cover up, seek the shade, use high-SPF sunscreen, and be very careful on overcast days, because the sun can go right through clouds and fog." Growing Pains: Coming oƒ Age with Skin Cancer "Kids at her age feel invincible, but after an unfortunate lesson early in life, she's on the bandwagon now about sun safety." 1. Between the ages of 11 and 14, as they spend less time with their parents, children use less and less sun protection; only 25 percent of 14-year- olds in the US regularly use sunscreen . 2 . One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life. 3 . Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25 -29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old. Dr. Franks with her daughter Katie, who remains cancer-free. At left, Katie's melanoma. Health Photos provided by Dr. Linda Franks, MD 57