Even fun in the sun can sometimes turn deadly

My dermatologist recently shared with me a list of five ways to die on a golf course. The five ways include being hit by a golf ball, run over by a golf cart, whacked by a golf club, struck by lightning and forgot your hat.

While none of these possibilities is pleasant to contemplate, the threat of skin cancer is real and should be considered carefully.

Every year one million new cases of skin cancer are detected, according to the Ameri?can Academy of Dermatology. One out of five people in this country develops skin cancer during his or her lifetime.

Americans love vacations with their families?many of these trips include trips to the beach or outdoor amusement parks. Many others work for long hours in the sun during the summer months?farmers, ranchers, construction workers and amusement park attendants.

If you spend several hours in the sun, protect yourself. Avoid the midday sun if at all possible. Cover up. Always wear a hat. Work in the shade whenever possible. And don?t forget to wear sunscreen.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. One person dies every hour from this disease in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Fortunately, melanoma can be completely cured if it?s caught early enough. Dermatologists advise us to examine our skin regularly.

If you find a blemish larger than a pencil eraser, multi-colored, asymmetrical or irregular at the edges, you may have melanoma and should see your dermatologist.

While we should protect ourselves from potential skin cancer, we should be every bit as aware of this danger for our children. Overexposure to sunlight during childhood will affect children for the rest of their lives.

Studies show that damage from the sun to a child?s skin can actually increase the odds that he or she will develop skin cancer as an adult.

The American Academy of Dermatology estimates 80 percent of a person?s total lifetime sun exposure occurs in the first 18 years.

Protect your children. Cover them up. Teach them to wear long-sleeved cotton shirts that breathe. Make sure they wear head protection at all times. Make wearing sunscreen part of the ritual for gearing up for the sun.

While skin cancer can kill you, it?s much more likely to disfigure you. Each year, thousands of Americans lose chunks of their skin to this disease. Some people lose their nose; others may lose their ears, while others may get off with only the loss of an eyebrow.

Examine your skin regularly, at least once a week. Look for warning signs.

If you find anything bleeding, crusting or not healing, see your dermatologist immediately. And if you want more information on how to identify skin cancer visit www.aad.org.

It?s all right to enjoy the sun and spend time outside. Remember these common-sense suggestions, have fun, and like everything else in life?enjoy the sun in moderation.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas.

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