Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How Flip-Flops, Baseball Caps Can Raise Your Skin Cancer Risk

Loyola Dermatologist Warns Popular Warm-Weather Gear Leaves Overlooked Areas of Skin Dangerously Exposed To Sun

MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Cheap, convenient and casual, baseball caps and flip-flops have acquired a trendy charm. Those qualities have made them must-wear accessories for teens, outdoor enthusiasts, gardeners or anyone trying to keep cool during the sweltering days of summer.

However, flip-flips and baseball caps could pose a hidden health risk from skin cancer, said Dr. Anthony Peterson, assistant professor of medicine, dermatology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Ill.

"Most skin cancers occur on the parts of the body that are repeatedly exposed to the sun," said Peterson, who is also director of Loyola's dermatology division. "The problem with flip-flops and baseball caps is that they leave the tips of the ears and the tops of the feet dangerously exposed to sun damage. The potential for skin cancers in those areas are real, especially on the tips of the ears."

Peterson said that before the popularity of flip-flops and baseball caps, people venturing out on sunny days traditionally wore broad-rimmed hats and sneakers or shoes that afforded a large measure of protection to the tops of their feet and tips of their ears.

"But now those areas of their bodies have very little protection," Peterson said. "Combine that with the fact that most people using sunscreen frequently overlook those parts of their bodies when applying it. From my point of view as a dermatologist, that's not a very good combination."

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Most skin cancers are classified as nonmelanoma, usually occurring in either basal cells or squamous cells. These cells are located at the base of the outer layer of the skin or cover the internal and external surfaces of the body.

More than 1 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are found in this country each year, according to the Cancer Society. Most of those cases are considered to be sun-related. They develop on sun-exposed areas of the body, like the face, ear, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands. Depending on the type, they can be fast- or slow-growing, but they rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes -- the cells that produce the skin coloring or pigment known as melanin. Melanin helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

Melanoma is almost always curable when it is detected in its early stages. Although melanoma accounts for only a small percentage of skin cancer, it is far more dangerous than other skin cancers, and it causes the majority of skin cancer deaths.

You can prevent all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma, by avoiding overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

* Use a sunscreen with an SPF of least 15 daily. Wearing sunscreen in the early fall is just as important, too. * Wear protective clothing outdoors, including a wide-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and pants. * Stay out of the sun during the midday hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). * Use a higher SPF when at higher elevations. * Avoid sunbathing and tanning salons. UV rays from artificial sources such as tanning beds and sunlamps are just as dangerous as those from the sun. * Set a good example for your children by always using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.

Peterson is certified by the American Board of Dermatology. To schedule an interview, contact Perry Drake in the media relations division of Loyola at (708) 216-7940, on his cell phone at (708) 441-7736 or call (708) 216-9000 and have him paged.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.