Sun Sense

Protect yourself from dangerous skin cancer.

The sun’s harmful rays can penetrate truck windows and many types of clothes, leaving even a trucker in the cab susceptible to skin cancer, the fastest-growing form of cancer in the world. Protection and detection are the keys to the prevention of skin cancer.

Most people have a number of brownish spots on their skin – freckles, birthmarks or moles. Almost all such spots are normal, but some could be skin cancers. You’re especially susceptible if you are redheaded or fair-skinned.

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is usually curable if detected at an early stage and treated. Some melanomas are hidden in everyday life because of an inconspicuous location on the body, clothing or the hair on our heads. But many, if not most, melanomas can be spotted as soon as they arise – if you know what to look for.

Be alert to irregularities in shape, edges, color and size of moles. The “ABCD” of melanoma are Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variability and Diameter larger than a pencil eraser. Color might spread from the edge into the surrounding tissue, or a mole could become suddenly or continuously larger.

In addition to checking out the ABCDs, you should watch for change in the following:

A mole that was flat or slightly elevated increases in height rapidly.

Surrounding skin
The skin around a mole becomes red or develops colored blemishes or swellings.

A smooth mole develops scaliness, erosion or oozing. Crusting, ulceration or bleeding are signs of more advanced disease.

Itching is the most common early symptom, and there may also be feelings of tenderness or pain. But remember that skin cancers are usually painless.

If any of these changes occur, schedule an appointment with a physician who specializes in skin cancer and is trained to recognize a melanoma at its earliest stage. You would first see a dermatologist, who might refer you to a dermatologic surgeon or oncologist (cancer specialist).

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Protection from the sun applies year-round, not just in the summer or at the beach. When you’re on snow or ice, your face is at almost twice the risk of ultraviolet damage because of reflected glare. UV rays can even damage your eyes, contributing to cataracts, macular degeneration and eyelid cancers. Sunglasses that protect against UV and high-energy visible light should be a must for truckers.

Dr. Albert Kilgman, a dermatologist, says statistics show that American drivers develop skin cancer more frequently on their left side while Australian drivers suffer from cancers of the skin on their right side, proving that sun exposure while driving can cause skin cancers. (Australians drive on the other side of the road.)

To protect yourself, UV-protective automobile window films are available, as well as UV-protective clothing and laundry products that can be added to detergent to increase UV protection in clothing. LLumar UVShield can be cut to fit the glass in your truck, and Coolibar, Orvis and other brands offer a wide assortment of UV-protective clothing.

Protect Yourself
To protect yourself from skin cancer, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the following:

  • Do not sunbathe.
  • Avoid unnecessary sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the peak hours for harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • When outdoors, use sunscreens rated SPF 15 or higher. Apply them liberally, uniformly and frequently.
  • When exposed to sunlight, wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, broad-brimmed hats and UV-protective sunglasses.
  • Teach your children good sun protection habits at an early age: The damage that leads to adult skin cancers starts in childhood.
  • Examine your skin from head to toe at least once every three months.

—Kristen Record