Protect Your Skin Against Our Mile High Sun

Melanoma Is Most Dangerous Skin Cancer

One of the best things about mile high living: the weather.

There's 300-plus days of sunshine a year. But as we get ready for football season, the Denver Broncos want you to protect your skin at home games. Starting with Sunday's game, the Broncos will be airing public service announcements to remind you to slather on the sunscreen.

Skin cancer rates here in Colorado are on the rise -- especially for deadly melanoma.

Jennifer Lane has seen more than her fair share of doctors. None of them knew why a large black spot suddenly appeared on her heel.

Sick of the spot and the lack of answers, she scheduled an appointment with a plastic surgeon to have it removed last December. But she decided she'd see one more dermatologist, Dr. Joel Cohen. His diagnosis of melanoma saved her life.

"He said, 'This has to be taken off now, it needs to be removed now or you won't make it to December.' So I set it up for the following week," Lane said.

Dermatologists say melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer there is.

"Very, very scary diagnosis. It is a skin cancer that can spread very rapidly to other parts of the body and unfortunately can lead to death," Cohen said.

Your best protection is regularly checking your skin from your scalp to the bottoms of your feet.

Look for spots that are larger than common moles. Melanomas will also be asymmetrical and have irregular borders. And they'll have a variety of colors within the growth.

If you have a family history of skin cancer, have more than 100 moles on your body or you've ever had a blistering sunburn, your risk goes up significantly.

The good news is, if you faithfully use a broad spectrum sunscreen, you can cut your risk in half.

"If you're applying it to your face, you should basically have a marble-sized amount of sunscreen. If you're applying to the whole body, it should be about a golf ball size of sunscreen," Cohen said.

Cohen said to use sunscreen that has an SPF rating of 15 or higher and re-apply it every two hours.

Some other ways to protect yourself and your family:

  • Stay in the shade, especially from 10 until 4.
  • Cover up with long sleeves, a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses. Cohen said new lines of sun protective clothing work even better than sunscreen.
  • Avoid laying out and tanning booths.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun and start using sunscreen as soon as your child is 6 months old.
  • Do a self-exam once a month and then visit a dermatologist once a year for a professional skin exam.

Doctors say not only will you be saving your life, you'll be reducing the signs of aging. The sun's rays bring on fine lines and wrinkles ahead of schedule.

To learn more about the signs of skin cancer and what you can do to prevent it, go to SkinCancer.org.

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