Sun safety forum spreads awareness about the dangers of skin cancer
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CHARLOTTE--As people soak up the summer sun, health officials want to remind them to take care of their health by protecting their skin.
On Saturday, Carolinas Medical Center hosted a melanoma forum. The dozens of people in attendance either had or currently have skin cancer, or are a relative of a patient.
Saturday's speakers say they want their message to reach people who aren't as aware of the dangers of skin cancer.
"People increase their sun exposure and unfortunately it leads to sunburns. That clearly leads to an increased risk of skin cancer," said Dr. Richard White, co-director of the Melanoma Program at the Levine Cancer Institute.
Experts say melanoma is rapidly increasing especially among the younger age groups, specifically young women, due to tanning beds. They say by 2020, one in 50 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma.
"The disconnect is just a lot of people don't think it's going to happen to them and that's where I think we need to make people aware that melanoma and all skin cancers are on the rise. That has a lot to do with what our social life is like and what we enjoy doing in our leisure time, but they think it's going to happen to somebody else,” said Dr. Briana Heniford, from Carolinas Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery.
People are aware of the regular tips, such as wear long sleeves and pants, a brimmed hat, and sunscreen, but experts explain people may not realize just how much sunscreen they should be wearing to get proper protection.
"Most sunscreens, in order to get that SPF, you need an ounce in that bottle, and an ounce is a fourth or a sixth of that bottle so in one application, you've got to get rid of a fourth of that bottle. If you're out all day, that could be a whole bottle just for you," said Dr. Heniford.
They say watching any dark spots, be it freckles or moles, is key by looking for multiple colors, checking the size and noticing any changes.
"It doesn't have to be big in order to be advanced, so when things change, go ahead and have it checked out. It can be the size of a pencil eraser head and be life threatening so get checked early, be careful, and most of us will do really well if we do that," said Dr. Heniford.
Dr. White says over the past year or two, the Food and Drug Association has approved two drugs for stage four melanoma.
He says Carolinas Medical Center is participating in a number of clinical trials, most of which are nationwide for these new treatments.
While it doesn't generally lead to cures, it's helping extend life in advanced melanoma cases which is a step in the right direction, says Dr. White.