MAY 21, 2012

Skin cancer screening to be offered June 2 in Redwood City

Free skin cancer screenings will be provided from 8 a.m. to noon June 2 in the dermatology clinic at the Stanford Medicine Outpatient Center in Redwood City. Roughly two dozen faculty and resident dermatologists will be on hand to screen for squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

“Skin cancers can be life-threatening, yet they’re one of the most preventable cancers,” said David Peng, MD, clinic director and associate professor of dermatology, who organizes the annual event. “Unfortunately, signs of melanoma are missed a lot, and these days the rates of melanoma continue to increase.”

An estimated 131,810 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2012, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma accounts for about 75 percent of all deaths from skin cancer.

Peng especially recommended a skin cancer screening for people who get lots of sun exposure or have fair skin, many moles, atypical-looking moles or parents or siblings who have had skin cancer.

The dermatology clinic is on the fourth floor of Pavilion B at the Outpatient Center, 450 Broadway, Redwood City. For more information about the free screening, call (650) 723-6316.

Sun damage basics:

  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer, although ultraviolet A (UVA) rays also play a role in skin cancer development. UVA radiation also leads to premature signs of aging in the skin, called photo-aging. They penetrate more deeply into the skin than UVB. They can also pass through the ozone layer and glass. Both types of UV radiation penetrate through clouds.

How to protect your skin:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 daily before going outside.
  • Use enough: Two tablespoons for full body coverage and one teaspoon for the face and ears. Reapply at least every two to three hours, especially if you’re sweating or swimming. If your scalp is not covered fully by hair, try a spray-on sunscreen or a sunscreen gel.
  • Wear a hat that covers your face, ears and the back of your neck.
  • Cover as much of your skin as you can. A tightly woven, light-colored fabric can protect skin better than inadequately applied sunscreen.
  • Avoid the midday sun (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), especially in the summer, unless you are fully protected. Seek shade when possible.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Avoid tanning beds. The light they emit causes non-melanoma skin cancers and melanoma.

What to know about sunscreens:

  • Use an SPF of at least 30, but be aware that this number only reflects how well UVB rays are filtered. Look for sunscreens labeled "broad spectrum," meaning their ingredients provide protection against the full range of UVA and UVB. Sunscreens with an SPF above 50 do not appear to offer significantly increased UVB protection. No sunscreens are fully waterproof, although they may be labeled as water-resistant. Sunscreens have expiration dates and will deteriorate if stored at higher temperatures.
  • Depending on their ingredients, sunscreens either absorb or reflect harmful rays. Sunscreens with micronized titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, in conjunction with chemicals like avobenzone and oxybenzone, combine the two approaches.

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