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Skin cancer among men is on the rise

Consider this a warm weather warning: Skin cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis in men. In fact, deaths from melanoma (a type of skin cancer) have risen 48 percent in men over the last two decades, compared with 18 percent in women.

To boost men's awareness of skin cancer, here are some healthy skin how-tos:

  • Watch the clock
    Avoid lengthy sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when sunlight contains the highest concentration of UVB rays, which cause burns and break down DNA in skin cells, which can in turn trigger cancer. This applies even on overcast days, since clouds block no more than 20 percent of UVB radiation.
  • Wear sunscreen
    Between April 1 and October 1, when the sun's rays are at peak strength, don't leave the house without putting sunscreen on your face, arms and hands. Look for the following features:
    • Sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. An SPF this high blocks 93 to 95 percent of UVB rays. It also offers longer- lasting protection than lower SPFs. To find out how long you'll be protected, multiply the SPF by the number of minutes you can usually stay in direct sunlight without burning. UVA/UVB protection. Sunscreens were first designed to protect only against UVB rays. But today those containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide also protect against UVA rays, the wrinkle makers.
    • Sweatproof. Otherwise the sunscreen may run off when you break a sweat.
    • Waterproof for six to eight hours. If a sunscreen just says it's "water proof," it works for 80 minutes in the water; "water resistant" indicates the product is effective for only 40 minutes. Look for long-lasting waterproof protection.
  • Cover up
    The more tightly woven clothes are - denim and broadcloth are ideal - the more rays they'll block. Many men think a T-shirt is all the protection they need for their back and chest. If you're going to wear a T-shirt, you still need to use sunscreen on your back and chest. In addition, it's important to wear a hat with a three- to four-inch brim to protect your face and the back of your neck. If a baseball cap is your normal choice, you should put sunscreen on your face and neck. You should also wear sunglasses that have a 100 percent UV protective coating.

The Baptist Health Cancer Resource Center offers a wealth of information on cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment. The Cancer Resource Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To reach the center, call (502) 896-3009 or fax (502) 896-3010. The Cancer Resource Center is a service of Baptist Health Cancer Care.