By: Heather P. Lampel, MD, MPH, FAAD, FACOEM
Typically, when we think of “occupational” or on the job skin cancer risk, we think of outdoor workers. It’s true, occupations like construction and agricultural workers have a higher risk because these workers are out in the sun for extended periods of time. Public servicemen and women and military workers, including police, firefighters and the armed forces, also have a higher risk. Anyone spending a majority of their workday outdoors needs to be more mindful of the dangers of UV exposure than others.
That said, through the course of the workday, everyone is exposed to UV to some degree. You – likely someone who is commuting on a regular basis – are at risk. Whether you’re driving in your own vehicle or riding in public transportation, protection from UV rays is inconsistent. Vehicle glass is often treated to help decrease UV rays, but this is variable depending on the vehicle and whether the glass is on the front, side or roof.
If you’re flying on a business trip, your exposure increases significantly. According to the American Medical Association, an hour of sun exposure on a plane is the equivalent of spending about 20 minutes in a tanning bed. As you climb in altitude, the thinner atmosphere filters less UV radiation. Sun protection becomes even more important.
The best thing anyone can do – whether they work inside or outside, in the air or on the ground – is to be aware of their exposure, and safeguard against it.
Tips for intermittent exposure indoors:
- Wear sunscreen daily (rain or shine!)
- Wear sun protective clothing when commuting. Keep gloves and sleeves to cover overexposed hands and arms, when driving, riding or flying
- Wear sunglasses during your commute to protect your eyes from exposure
- If you sit next to a window at work, apply a window film that blocks UVA and UVB rays
- If your “office” is your car, invest in a window film for the front, driver and passenger side windows
Tips for consistent exposure outside:
- Talk to your employer about your need and options for sun protection
- Wear sun-protective clothing that matches the demands of your job. Not all UPF 50+ fabrics perform the same way
- Always have a hat with a full brim to shield your face and neck
- Wear sunscreen daily (rain or shine!) for all exposed areas
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from exposure
Additionally, take these tips home with you. Our workplace skin protective behaviors impact our home and leisure sun behaviors and visa versa. We need to protect our skin both at work and at home since our skin goes with us everywhere! For everyone, no matter where you work or spend your days, it’s important that you’re aware of your skin – its baseline color, markings and blemishes. If you or a friend note any skin changes, these should be checked by a professional.
Research has shown that patients, not doctors, are most likely to spot their melanoma, reinforcing the importance of thoroughly checking your skin each month.Melanoma Research Foundation
Additionally, schedule an annual exam with a professional. No matter your background, age, race or gender – Melanoma and other skin cancers don’t discriminate so you ARE at risk. When melanoma isn’t recognized and treated early, it can spread to other parts of the body where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. The prevention and early detection of skin cancer can save lives!
Dr. Lampel is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. She has an interest in occupational skin disease including skin cancer and melanoma.
One sunny morning last week, Coolibar employees got up early, grabbed their gear and made the three-hour journey from Minneapolis to Crosslake, Minnesota to attend Camp Discovery. This one-week summer camp for kids with chronic skin conditions is operated by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), and encompasses five such summer camps across the country.
During the afternoon the camp split into eight teams, and each composed a skit or song about sun protection that they presented to the larger group. Afterward, everyone headed to the lakeshore for some sun safe swimming. Coolibar passed out UPF 50+ swim shirts and sun hats to 98 campers and staff!
Crosslake is the original location for the AAD’s Camp Discovery, and it includes Camp Little Pine (for ages 10 – 14) and Camp Big Trout (ages 14 – 16). This is the third consecutive year that Coolibar has dropped in for a visit.
Check out our fun photos!
As it does each year, the American Academy of Dermatology has designated the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday®. This chance to promote melanoma awareness and prevention is important to us at Coolibar, because we meet people who live with their melanoma diagnoses every day – and because we meet people who are not familiar with melanoma at all.
Knowing about melanoma can save your life – and sharing what you know can save others! Here is a short list of what we’d like people to understand about melanoma.
Melanoma is the Deadliest Form of Skin Cancer.
Some people understand skin cancer treatment as “you find a mole on your skin, you have it removed, that’s it.”
In fact, the majority of melanoma cases involves wide-excision surgery and a lymph node biopsy to determine if the melanoma has spread to other organs. This may be followed by a regimen of immunotherapy, chemotherapy or radiation treatments. In all cases, the possibility of recurrence must be carefully monitored. For melanoma survivors, the letters NED (no evidence of disease) become vitally important for many years.
The AAD says that melanoma is the most common cancer for young adults 25 to 29 years old, and the second most common for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.
It’s Easier Than Ever to Prevent Melanoma.
The single best way to prevent melanoma and other skin cancers is to limit exposure to the sun. But some people think that means giving up their favorite activities. Instead, here are a few simple tips to keep you active and healthy:
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and reapply after swimming or strenuous activity.
- Wear sunscreen every day – up to 80% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can reach your skin even when it’s cloudy.
- Seek shade when necessary.
- Wear sun protective clothing!
Each week during Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we’d like you to meet several very courageous people who can tell you about melanoma much better than we can. Their stories are powerful, personal and inspiring (and, unfortunately, similar to many others from people all over the world). But each one will change the way you think about your health and your life.
We’ll introduce the first of these people on Thursday, May 8.
In the meantime, help us spread the word about melanoma!
May is officially Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and Coolibar kicks it off with another boost for awareness, detection and prevention of melanoma – the deadliest of skin cancers. Together, melanoma, squamous cell skin cancer and basal cell skin cancer make skin cancer the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the U.S.
At the same time, according to the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF), efforts to prevent melanoma/skin cancer are the most underfunded of all cancer types. The foundation says melanoma is the least screened cancer, and melanoma detection is not a training requirement for most medical disciplines.
What Can We Do?
The MIF says:
- Seek shade and avoid direct sun during the peak hours of 10-4
- Cover up with protective clothing and use sunscreen lotion
- Protect your children and role-model sun safe behavior
- Examine your skin and that of your loved ones each season for any changes that should be checked by a dermatologist
- Avoid tanning salons: 15 minutes is equal to a whole day’s exposure at the beach!
What Else Can We Do?
Let’s stay aware! Most people don’t realize how a melanoma diagnosis changes someone’s life. Do you?
Coolibar has some special posts ready for you this month. Each week you can meet a melanoma survivor with a story that will amaze you. If you don’t know much about melanoma, these personal stories will help you learn about it quickly. They should also give you a nice dose of motivation. One thing we’re sure of: by the time you finish hearing from these people, you’ll have a different outlook on life.
Our first featured melanoma survivor will be introduced next week, following Melanoma Monday® on May 5. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has designated the first Monday of each May to raise awareness of melanoma and other types of skin cancer and to encourage early detection through self-exams.
Also, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention declares the Friday before Memorial Day as Don’t Fry Day to encourage sun safety awareness. This year, Don’t Fry Day is on Friday, May 23.
Stay up to date with Coolibar activities on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Another great way to stay aware during Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness Month is to sign up for our weekly emails at Coolibar.com. You’ll get links to all of our stories, plus some extra savings on Coolibar merchandise!
We’re packing our bags, and our booth! The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is holding its 72nd Annual Meeting March 21 – 25 in Denver, Colorado. We’ll be there. Will you?
We know we’ll be in good company. Coolibar is one of more than 400 exhibitors this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing you.
There are also dozens of events and scientific sessions on dermatology and related topics at the convention center and the Hyatt Regency Denver.
You can find Coolibar at Booth #716 in the exhibit hall at the Colorado Convention Center – stop in and say hi. While you’re there, we’ll be happy to show you our latest sun protective clothing products!
We’ve been keeping a close eye on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, if only to imagine what it’s like to slide down an ice-covered slope at 80-plus miles per hour on purpose. If you’ve been watching too, you likely saw something unexpected: temperatures topped 17 degrees C. in Sochi (that would be more than 60 degrees here at Coolibar headquarters near Minneapolis, MN, which hasn’t happened in a while). This is the Winter Olympics?
Especially as we look at these photos from February 12 in the Mail Online, we’re reminded once again how important it is to protect ourselves from the sun year round. In fact, sun protection is much easier to overlook during winter, when exposure tends to be more intermittent. UVA and UVB rays are always a danger for unprotected skin regardless of the temperature or time of year.
One of our heroes, Julia Mancuso – a US Olympic alpine skier who won a bronze medal February 10 in the Ladies Super Combined, which is an official name for “flying down an icy slope at 80 mph”– is already on top of it. Aware of the dangers, especially at higher altitudes with the sun reflecting off of snow, she shares her story and her tips for staying sun safe with the American Academy of Dermatology.
While sitting in the sun sure looks more fun than, say, missing a gate in the Olympic downhill, let’s remember to take care of ourselves. Here are our SunAWARE tips, good all year round:
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”.