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Doctors: Protect your skin with sunscreen when outdoors

Expert conducts health care screenings Saturday

POSTED: May 20, 2014 1:00 a.m.

As families prepare to enjoy a day in the sun and at pools Saturday to kick off the three-day weekend, adults and children alike need to protect their skin from the dangerous UV rays and the damaging effects on the body.

Skin cancers come in many forms.

Some cancers are easily removed while others, like melanoma, can be deadly. The key to avoiding and minimizing the health concern is proper screening and prevention measures.

During opening day of the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center Splash Zone, the center is partnering with the Northeast Georgia Health System and Dermatology Associates of Northeast Georgia to offer free skin cancer screenings to paying visitors. Screenings will take place from noon to 3 p.m. in the wellness room. The screenings are being conducted this month since May is skin cancer awareness month.

“For us, it’s really important that people practice sun safety, and the aquatic center is the perfect place,” said Julie Butler Colombini, Gainesville Parks and Recreation Marketing and Communications manager. “People are out there thinking about (sun safety) or maybe they’re not thinking about it. But this will help them to be more aware of the dangers of the sun and be able to spot something that even the normal eye can’t see.”

According to the skin cancer foundation, 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually. That is more than the annual new cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined.

“There are all kinds of different types of skin cancers,” said Todd Sigmon, executive director of oncology at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. “There’s basal cell cancers. There’s squamous cells and then there’s melanomas. Some skin cancers would be considered not necessarily life-threatening, but if not taken care of they could spread and scar your body and effect other problems. Then there are melanomas. And if they’re not caught early, they absolutely can take your life.

“Skin cancer runs the gamut from superficial skin cancers that can be easily removed to cancers that are more concerning and can require possibly other treatments to take care of.”

Sigmon said while the hospital doesn’t often see skin cancer patients because the condition is primarily treated by dermatologists and family physicians, the condition is no less serious.

“We got involved because as a cancer community, it’s our job to educate the community,” Sigmon said. “Skin cancer is the No. 1 most diagnosed type of cancer. So even though we don’t really treat it as a hospital program, the doctors in our community do and the patients in our community will get it.”

Jonathan Nix, certified physician assistant at Dermatology Associates of Northeast Georgia, will provide the free screenings.

Nix said part of the screening will include gathering a history on the patient and seeing if they have any specific concerns.

Nix said he’ll look for moles that are new, irritated, discolored or asymmetrical. If someone has a spot that needs further evaluation, he’ll refer them to visit a dermatologist.

While seeing children and adults, Nix said parents can do a lot for their own health and their children’s health by being safe in the sun.

“It can be hard to convince a child to wear sunscreen if (parents aren’t) wearing sunscreen,” Nix said. “Lead by example. Then an SPF of 30 or greater is what the American Association of Dermatology recommends. The biggest key factor is putting it on every three hours. Our body naturally breaks down sunscreen around the three-hour mark. If you just put it on in the morning, you’re not protected all day. The best (sunscreens) for the kids are the barriers not the chemical, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.”

Screening participants will also receive educational materials to help them identify potential cancers on their own skin or their families.

Sigmon said skin cancers are often found by family members and even strangers in places that can be hard to see, like the backs of arms, ears and tops of head. The more people learn about what to look for, the more likely a dangerous mole is to be spotted in time.


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