Baseball caps expose your ears to dangerous sun damage, while flip-flops do not cover the tops of feet - increasing the risk of skin cancer in both areas of the body, researchers from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill, explained. The authors wrote that flip-flops and baseball caps are cheap, convenient and casual, and are commonly worn by teenagers, gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts.
Dr. Rebecca Tung said:
"Most skin cancers occur on the parts of the body that are repeatedly exposed to the sun," said Tung, who is also director of Loyola's dermatology division. "The problem with flip-flops and baseball caps is that they leave the tips of the ears and the tops of the feet dangerously exposed to sun damage. The potential for skin cancers in those areas are real, especially on the tips of the ears."
People used to venture outdoors into the sun wearing broad-brimmed hats and sneakers - garments that offer much better protection for the skin.
"But now those areas of their bodies have very little protection. Combine that with the fact that most people using sunscreen frequently overlook those parts of their bodies when applying it. That's not a very good combination."
Half of all cancer diagnoses made in the USA every year are skin cancers, the American Cancer Society says - it is the most common type of cancer in America. Most cases are classed as non-melanoma and occur in either squamous cells or basal cells - they are located at the base of the outer layer of skin, or cover the external and internal surfaces of the body.
According to the Cancer Society, over 1 million non-melanomas are diagnosed each year in the USA. In the vast majority of cases they are thought to be related to sun exposure. Typically, non-melanomas develop on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun the most, such as the backs of the hands, lips, neck, ears, and face.
They are usually fast or slow growing, depending on the type. They rarely spread.
Melanoma usually starts off in the cells that produce melanin - the skin coloring. These cells are called melanocytes. Melanin helps protect the deeper layers of our skin from the dangerous effects of sunlight.
When detected early on, melanoma is nearly always curable. Melanoma is more dangerous than other skin cancers and accounts for most skin cancer deaths.
The researchers say the following precautions will reduce your risk of developing skin cancer:
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirts, and pants (rather than shorts)
- Stay out of the sun between 10am and 3pm
- When at higher altitudes, use a higher SPF sunscreen
- Avoid tanning salons
- Avoid sunbathing
Driving with your window open and skin cancer riskResearchers from the University of Washington in Seattle found that in the USA people are more likely to get skin cancer on their left arm than right, probably because when they are driving their left arm gets more sun. In Australia, where people drive on the opposite side of the road, precancerous growths were found to be more common on their right arms.
Their study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Keeping your arm inside and having the window closed does help, scientists say.
Paul Nghiem, co-author, said:
"The reality is that any of the glass in the car
will get out most of the bad UV.
If you tend to drive with your window open you should seriously consider applying sunscreen to the exposed side of your body, the researchers say.
The authors in an Abstract in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded:
"Both melanoma and MCC are significantly more likely to arise on the left than the right, and this effect was most prominent on the arm. Driver-side automobile ultraviolet exposure (approximately 5-fold stronger on the left than right arm) is a likely contributing factor. It may be prudent to remind individuals prone to skin cancer to take appropriate sun precautions when driving in an automobile."
"Asymmetric lateral distribution of melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma in the United States"
Kelly G. Paulson, PhD; Jayasri G. Iyer, MD; Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Volume 65, Issue 1 , Pages 35-39, July 2011
Written by Christian Nordqvist