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What History Tells Us About Skin Cancer and African Americans

February is African American History Month. Among much else, it can serve as a fitting reminder about a myth that has persisted for too long: African Americans (and those with darker skin tones) can’t get skin cancer. In fact, among the African American population, melanoma – the most serious kind of skin cancer – is much more deadly than among Caucasians.

You may have heard that naturally dark-skinned people have less chance of getting skin cancer, and that is true.  Darker skin naturally has more melanin, the dark pigment that protects against the sun’s UV rays. But the simple fact is, no one is immune to skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation shares these facts:

  • The overall 5-year melanoma survival rate for African Americans is only 77 percent, versus 91 percent  for Caucasians.
  • 52 percent of non-Hispanic black patients receive an initial diagnosis of advanced stage melanoma, versus 16 percent of non-Hispanic white patients.
  • Melanomas in African Americans (and other nationalities, including Asians, Filipinos and Indonesians) most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment. Up to 75 percent of tumors arise on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common skin cancer among African Americans. It tends to be more aggressive and carry a 20-40 percent risk of metastasis (spreading).
  • Skin cancer comprises one to two percent of all cancers in African Americans.  

Why is this? One reason is that the familiar story about how darker skin has a higher SPF than lighter skin (which it does) has for too long translated into “My dark skin prevents me from getting skin cancer” (which it doesn’t). It’s important to keep skin cancer top of mind; early diagnosis is often critical in successfully treating melanoma and other skin cancers.

Another big reason, according to Dr. Charles E. Crutchfield III, is within the medical community. Crutchfield is a board-certified dermatologist in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with specialized experience treating ethic skin. He says that the relatively higher incidences of skin cancers among Caucasians – and therefore the related training for physicians – makes it more difficult for professionals to diagnose skin cancer among African Americans and other ethnic groups. The lesions, moles and other symptoms that commonly help with a skin cancer diagnosis do not always appear as readily on someone with darker skin.

Skin cancer in African Americans is also more apt to develop in harder-to-find areas such as under fingernails or toenails.

So education is one of our most effective tools to combat skin cancer. As African American History Month continues, keep in mind how you can avoid skin cancer.

Be SunAWARE and be safe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Educate Others

Some Healthy Snack Ideas for the Big Game…

Hungry Happenings - Coolibar Snack Ideas

While Coolibar helps you stay healthy outdoors with our sun protective clothing, we can also help during one of our favorite indoor sports – the Super Bowl party. We’ve assembled some of our favorite snack ideas that will help you and your guests maintain your bodies and minds for a great spring 2014! Check out our Healthy Snacks here.

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Educate Others Expert Rx SunAWARE

Ocular Melanoma: Skin Cancer in Your Eyes?

Yes, melanoma – known as the most serious type of skin cancer – can occur in your eyes! In fact, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation, ocular melanoma (also known as OM) is the second most common form of melanoma, with about 2,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. About half of OM cases are eventually fatal as the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

And as with all melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancers, prevention starts with education. A terrific guideline: The greater your risk of developing skin cancer through exposure to UVA and UVB rays, the greater your risk of developing OM.

Why the Eye?

OM is similar to skin melanoma, but there are significant differences. Many people have heard of the natural pigment melanin, which gives our skin its particular color, and we might also know that melanoma develops from the cells which produce melanin. But these cells are not just in our skin. We carry them in our intestinal lining, and in our hair; they also give color to our eyes.

Who is at Risk?

Researchers at the Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center say that people most at risk for OM  generally:

  • Have fair skin, and tend to sunburn easily.
  • Have light-colored eyes.
  • Are of European descent, especially northern Europe.
  • Have occupations such as welding, where proper eye protection is vital.

Also, age is a factor: people 50 and above have a much greater risk of developing OM.

What Can You Do?

It’s important to realize that anyone can develop ocular melanoma. Our eyes are constantly exposed to the sun whenever we are outside, whether we are active on the tennis court or running errands in the car. We should pay attention to eye care right along with skin protection. Here are some tips:

– Invest in a good pair of sunglasses. Look for a pair that blocks 99-100 percent UVB and UVA rays. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN offers tips on selecting sunglasses.

– Wear a hat with at least a 3-inch brim (minimum recommendation of the American Academy of Dermatology).

– Start your children early on the path of UV protection. Get them into the habit of wearing sunglasses and hats.

Take it from melanoma survivor Timna: “EVERYONE needs to do everything they CAN do to protect their eyes”.

Check out our selection of sun protective sun hats and sunglasses.  All Coolibar sun hats are UPF 50+, and all sunglasses carried by Coolibar block 100% UVA/UVB rays.

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The Sun, Heat and Skin Cancer: Is Tennis Too Dangerous?

On days like this past Thursday in Melbourne, the answer is yes. That day, all matches in the Australian Open – the opening grand slam event in pro tennis each year – were suspended because of heat that climbed to 110 degrees F (40+ C).

That’s not sustainable for players or fans; if you happen to be either one, you know that tennis requires you to be out in the sun for hours at a time. But when it isn’t so hot, a larger and less obvious danger remains: how are people protecting themselves from UVA and UVB rays that can cause skin cancer?

In Australia – which as a nation has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world – this isn’t an unusual question. At this year’s Australian Open, officials have passed out sunscreen to fans and stocked it in the locker rooms. And well-known professional tennis players like John Newcombe of Australia and Felix Mantilla of Spain have had very public battles with skin cancer after their playing days were over.

Yet many tennis pros today say they don’t like to wear sunscreen. They cite the same reasons you might as a casual player (or a fan):  sunscreen is too slippery; it can feel like it’s blocking the body’s natural cooling process; it gets in your eyes.

Other players, like Australian former world No. 1 player Patrick Rafter (who played a doubles match in this year’s tournament), make it clear that sunscreen is a must. But what else can be done?

Patrick Rafter and Novak Djokovic at Australian Open Tennis champion Novak Djokovic posted this on Twitter from the Australian Open.

A great option that can no longer be overlooked is wearable sun protection.

In 2000, former tennis pro Chris Evert explained to a tennis magazine that her eyes had been permanently damaged by UV rays. Now, UV protective sunglasses and even contact lenses are available for players and fans.

But there’s much more available than that. In the same article, Evert mentioned that players had only recently begun wearing hats while playing. Now there’s a whole range of UPF 50+ sun protective hats in a variety of styles, with features like wide brims, breathable and quick-drying fabrics and removable neck drapes.

In fact, tennis players can now outfit themselves with entire ensembles – complete sun protection from head to foot. This is partly because of increased awareness about the dangers  of UVA and UVB rays, and partly because fashion has finally caught up with function.

Is tennis too dangerous? Even if you’re not playing in a prestigious professional tournament watched the world over, the answer should always be a resounding “no.”

Be SunAWARE and Be Safe!

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Sun Protection in Winter? Ask an Olympian

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia begin in less than a month. While the events are cold weather related – bobsled, hockey, ice skating and skiing to name a few – the athletes remind us of the importance of sun protection year round, no matter where you live. US Olympic skier Julia Mancuso is a US favorite (gold medalist and Minnesota native Lindsay Vonn is staying home due to injuries). Julia is out skiing every day to train. And although the temperatures may be low, UV rays are still damaging – especially at higher altitudes, such as in Sochi where the alpine ski courses start more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Julie gives her tips on sun protection before hitting the slopes.

  • Apply sunscreen at least fifteen minutes before going outside
  • Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against both UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays)
  • Reapply sunscreen every few hours; keep a small bottle of sunscreen with you
  • Don’t forget to protect your eyes!
  • Wear a hat or helmet

Along with UPF 50+ sun protective hats, 100%  UV protective sunglasses and SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen, we recommend the Coolibar Sun Gaiter for added face and neck coverage.

We wish Julia and the other athletes great success at the Olympics. Whether you’re going outside to cross-country ski, or taking your dog for a walk, or if you happen to be going to the Winter Olympics in Sochi (jealous!), remember: it’s always important to protect your skin from the sun!

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Educate Others SunAWARE

Skin Cancer Rates Rise in US Hispanic Demographic

It’s still a common misconception that darker skin tones are not at risk for skin cancer. The Hispanic population is the fastest growing ethnic group in the US. Unfortunately, along with this increase is an increase in the rate of skin cancer among its members. An unwarranted confidence in skin color may contribute to a lack of compliance with sun safety techniques–possibly one reason for the rapid rise in melanoma and other skin cancers.

A study from the Cancer Institute of New Jersey concluded that there is a lack of skin cancer prevention interventions targeting this community. Sunscreen use in the Hispanic population is also low. More than 43% of Hispanics never use sunscreen. While this group does produce extra melanin (which is a natural UV protector), sun safety is still important. Additionally, 89% of Hispanic women have never had a conversation with their doctor about melanoma.

So what can we do to change this? We can educate. Inform everyone that wearing sunscreen daily and sun protective clothing is important for all ethnicities. Year-round sun protection (yes, even in the winter), skin checks and awareness can benefit of all of us.

Be SunAWARE and Be Safe!

Read more on this topic here: Skin Cancer in Skin of Color

Resources: Skin Cancer Foundation & Latin Times

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Educate Others Parenting School sun safety

Adding sun safety into the school curriculum

Did you know one or more blistering sunburns before the age of 18 more than doubles your chances of getting melanoma? To promote sun safety, Lisa Richman, executive director of the Richard David Kann (RDK) Melanoma Foundation, presented this statistic as a part of their Sun Safety program to the 6th grade science classes at Independence Middle School.

RDK Melanoma Foundation was founded in honor of Richard David Kann. Kann was 44-years-old when he discovered a funny spot on his back. Like most people, he ignored it. By the time he found his way in to a dermatologist’s office, he realized he was fighting for his life. Sadly, he lost his battle with melanoma in only nine short months. Family and friends banded together knowing they must do something, so other families would not suffer the loss of a loved one from a disease that can be prevented with education.

The Sun Safety program at Independence Middle School was a huge success. “Students were well-behaved, bright and responsive. They knew their science regarding skin and UV Rays, and had already heard words like ‘dermatologist’ and some ‘melanoma’,” said Lisa Richman. After listening to an interactive presentation and viewing the YouTube video entitled “Dear 16 Year Old Me”, students were reluctant to look into the Dermaview machine (pictured to left) Lisa brought now knowing the freckles on their face were not “kisses from angels” but sun damage!

The students, eager to share their newfound knowledge with the rest of their school, even wrote a poem to read during daily announcements.

When going out on a sunny day,

Stay away from hot sun rays.

Cover your head with a wide brim hat,

Protect your eyes like a cool cat.

Putting balm on your lips goes a long way,

To keep them safe from ultra violet rays.

If you must go out between 10 and 4,

Don’t forget your umbrella when out the door.

This may be a lot to keep in your head,

But one last thing NO Tanning beds!

Sun smart rules keep you safe in the sun,

You can enjoy in the summer and have lots of fun!

The Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation is a non-profit organization involved in skin cancer education – enlightening the community through SunSmart America™ K-12 Curriculum, which provides school-based learning on sun safety and skin cancer. SunSmart America™ meets existing requirements in science, health, physical education and language arts.

Considering a similar program for your school this year? Learn more about school sun safety programs at www.melanomafoundation.com

Learn about Coolibar’s School Sun Hat Discount Program.

 

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World Vitiligo Day

Today, June 25, 2013, is World Vitiligo Day, a day that aims to increase awareness of vitiligo and raise funds needed for research and education.

Michael Jackson, one of the most famous entertainers in the world, suffered from vitiligo. And even after his death it’s still one of the most misunderstood things about the king of pop. Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which there is a loss of color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin. It’s the reason one of the most famous men on the planet went from black to white.

Well over 100 million people from all over the world suffer from this disease. It affects all nationalities, ages, genders and levels of social strata.

Vitiligo is an acquired disease characterized by progressing skin depigmentation, due to destruction or malfunction of melanocytes, cells that produce melanin. It is present worldwide, and its prevalence in different countries ranges from less than 0.1% to more than 8% of general population (~1% in the United States and in Europe), while many cases go unreported due to the current dermatology practice.

Although vitiligo has impacted the lives of millions of individuals since recorded history, predominantly in the developing world, there is no cure in sight. And because it is not contagious or life-threatening, patients often receive no support from national healthcare systems or insurance companies whatsoever.

The World Vitiligo Day is a public initiative aimed at building global awareness about vitiligo.  Click here to join a list of 500,000 signatures needed to address the United Nations and highlight vitiligo.

Check out these resources on vitiligo:

VR Foundation
Firmly committed to curing Vitiligo, the VR Foundation is a non-profit organization funding and fast-tracking medical research across the biomedical spectrum. With bio-IT tools, it provides a collaborative an environment to bridge the gap between scientific frontiers and the patients who need treatment. The VRF has recently joined a group of biotech companies that are bypassing traditional mass-market cosmetic and orphan drug development indications to expedite product development.

Vitiligo Bond Inc.
Founded in November 2010, Vitiligo Bond Inc. (VBI) is a registered nonprofit 501c(3) organization that aims to provide support for those living with vitiligo. VBI has grown into a worldwide support group, through its Facebook and social media presence. As an advocacy organization, VBI is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for vitiligo; increasing awareness of vitiligo spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with vitiligo and their families. Natasha Pierre, founder of VBI, is a current vitiligan. Her experience in living with the skin disorder has given her the passion and understanding of vitiligo.

Click image to share on Facebook:

American Academy of Dermatology
The AAD is the largest, most influential and most representative dermatology group in the United States. With a membership of more than 17,000, it represents virtually all practicing dermatologists in the United States, as well as a growing number of international dermatologists. Read what the AAD says about vitiligo and the importance of sun protection. Find a board certified dermatologist.

Read about other famous people with vitiligo: NY Jets DL Coach Karl Dunbar – Seeing Beyond My Vitiligo.

Michael Jackson photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jackson

A portion of this post is part of a news release originally published by the VR Foundation.

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Policymakers Regulate Indoor Tanning for Minors

If you’re under 18 years old and live in the state of California or Vermont, say goodbye to tanning bed use once and for all. California stepped up and became the first state in the nation to ban the use of indoor tanning beds for all minors under 18. The CA ban went into effect on January 1, 2012, followed by Vermont on July 1, 2012 – both monumental dates in the anti-tanning movement.

“According to (California) State Senator Ted Lieu, who introduced and sponsored the legislation on its long journey through the state assembly, the bill’s successful passage provides hope that similar action can be achieved in other states across the United States. ‘I strongly believe that this law is a good model for other states and countries to follow,’ says Mr. Lieu. ‘Every year the evidence is more overwhelming that tanning greatly increases one’s likelihood of skin cancer, which is why we need to keep pushing the envelope to bring about more legislation to restrict indoor tanning,’ Mr. Lieu notes.”

The National Council of State Governments has assembled an easy to read graph and table for state indoor tanning laws and regulations for minors for a side by side comparison. Visit their website to learn more about the anti-tanning legislation in your state.

2012 State Indoor Tanning Laws for Minors 2012 State Indoor Tanning Laws for Minors

Make your voice heard.

If you believe indoor tanning devices should receive the maximum amount of regulation, which more closely matches the health risks of these harmful devices, write a letter of support to your state elected representatives urging the FDA to regulate tanning beds and ban those under 18 from using them.  You can also email The Skin Cancer Foundation at advocacy@skincancer.org. The Foundation will compile all emails of support and send them to the FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg’s office.

Resources:

National Conference of State Legislatures

Practical Dermatology

The Skin Cancer Foundation

The Coolibar Blog

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Educate Others Expert Rx

Get Your Vitamin D, Just Not From UV

A reminder for all, especially the cold weather states:

Vitamin D is essential for healthy living. UVB (not UVA) exposure from the sun causes the body to produce vitamin D; however, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends getting adequate Vitamin D through alternative safe methods.

Vitamin D helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones.  It may also protect from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, two forms of vitamin D are important in humans: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants. Vitamin D3 is synthesized by humans in the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from sunlight. Foods may be fortified with vitamin D2 or D3.

Fatty fish, such as salmon, are natural sources of vitamin D

Getting vitamin D (D3, not D2) through dietary intake – fatty fish such as salmon, fish liver, egg yolks, even vitamin D supplementation in a vitamin pill – is a lot safer than getting it through UV exposure. According to the AAD, “the IOM Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is: 400 IU (International Units) for infants/children 0-1yr, 600 IU for children, teenagers and adults 1-70yr, 800 IU for adults 71+ yr.  The RDA is intake that covers needs of 97.5 percent of the healthy normal population.”  Recommendations are currently being reevaluated by the medical community. 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 may well end up being the new dosage recommended for prevention of vitamin D3 deficiency for people at risk of low levels.

Low levels of natural sun may be a necessary last resort for individuals at high risk of vitamin D deficiency. According to Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey in her blog post “Are you really getting vitamin D from the sun, or just nuking your DNA” she says, “Fair-skinned people make the maximum amount of vitamin D3 possible within a few minutes of mid-day summer sun exposure. This occurs with less sun exposure than would cause skin redness. Longer sun exposure adds nothing to vitamin D stores, but it does increase DNA damage.” Dr. Bailey strongly encourages patients to get their vitamin D level measured by a doctor and take supplements and eat foods with vitamin D3. Dr. Bailey says, “Chances are, your level is just fine anyway and all that sun exposure is just nuking your DNA, making wrinkles, age spots and skin cancers.”

In conclusion, vitamin D is something most can get adequately through diet. Still use sunscreen and remain SunAWARE all year long!

Disclaimer: The information provided by Coolibar and its contributors is general skin care information and should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem.

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