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Apply Sunscreen Liberally and Frequently

LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni

“Applying sunscreen to protect against skin cancer is a lot like washing your hands. It is essential to your health, it is easy to do and, when you work outside, it is something that must be done periodically throughout the day,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Just like when you are at the beach or mowing the lawn, when work keeps you outside, it is important to pause every two hours – more frequently if you are sweating or getting wet – and reapply sunscreen. Skin cancer rates are climbing, but when you apply sunscreen liberally and frequently, you can protect your skin from the sun’s skin-damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays and reduce your risk for this disease.”

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and Canada. All skin tones and races are susceptible. In the U.S. alone, skin cancer kills  more than 12,000 people annually. The American Cancer Society estimates that before 2014 is over, more than 76,000 new cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will be diagnosed. More than three million new cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer will also be diagnosed.

What makes these deaths and all instances of skin cancer particularly tragic is how easily the majority could be avoided. Liberally and frequently applying sunscreen and, whenever possible, minimizing midday sun exposures (even on overcast days) when the sun is strongest can help prevent most cases of skin cancer. Heredity, exposures to toxic chemicals and therapeutic radiation can also be factors for skin cancer, but most cases are caused by exposure to UV rays, and most of that comes from the sun.

The face, ears, back, neck, arms and legs are common spots for skin cancer, but it can also develop on areas of the body that don’t get a lot of sun exposure. These include the palms, genitals, under fingernails and, as was the case with the melanoma that killed reggae musician Bob Marley, under a toenail.

The good news is that along with being highly preventable, skin cancer is also highly curable, if it is found early. The best way to detect skin cancer is to examine your skin regularly for changes in moles, freckles and skin growths and to have an annual skin check performed by your health care provider.

To encourage sun safety awareness as summer approaches and more people spend time outdoors, the National Council of Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day, May 23rd, as “Don’t Fry Day.” Follow these tips on this day and every day to stay safe in the sun:

  • Liberally apply broad spectrum sunscreen and lip balm of SPF 30 or higher
  • Set the alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to reapply every two hours or sooner
  • Do not burn or tan
  • Seek shade
  • Wear sun-protective clothing including a wide-brimmed hat and wrap-around sunglasses
  • Be extra cautious near water, sand and snow as they intensify the sun’s burning rays

Sun Protection from the LHSFNA

The LHSFNA conducts its annual Sun Sense campaign each May to remind LIUNA members about skin cancer risk and to encourage appropriate steps for protection. Materials, posters and additional information are available through the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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