Commonsense prevention and advanced scientific research both play a role in preventing the deadly skin cancer. Dr. Steppie, president and medical director of Orlando’s Associates in Dermatology, takes an active role in research and prevention alike.
Melanoma, a type of skin cancer that kills approximately 10,000 people in the U.S. every year, is always a concern for those living in the Sunshine State. Not only are Floridians exposed to harmful rays year-round, many older men and women retire to Florida to enjoy the sunny climate.
A clinical professor of dermatology at Florida State University College of Medicine, Dr. Steppie notes that, while melanoma is less common than other kinds of skin cancer, it is responsible for far more deaths. The disease tends to affect people older than 65, striking men twice as frequently as women. By age 80, the rate triples. Since older men are the largest high-risk group, melanoma prevention and early detection is especially important for them. However, anyone can develop melanoma, even dark-skinned people.
Despite the dire statistics, research suggests that nearly 90 percent of melanomas could be preventable. Dr. Steppie, a long-time advocate of melanoma prevention, offers these sun safety tips from the Melanoma Research Foundation of the American Academy of Dermatology:
Choose a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 SPF. Generously apply to all exposed skin year-round, even on cloudy days. Apply approximately one ounce (a shot-glassful) 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
Cars and Clothing
When you go out in the sun, wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Preferably, choose sun-protective clothing, accessories and swimwear carrying a UPF 50+ label.
To limit sun exposure while driving, use car windows with UVA-filtering window glass or film.
When to Avoid the Sun
Keep newborns out of the sun, and use sunscreens on babies over the age of six months. Some medicines make you more susceptible to sunlight, too, so read medication labels carefully. Also, water, snow and sand reflect and magnify the damaging rays of the sun, increasing your chance of sunburn. Especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., stay in the shade.
Don’t use them. There’s no way to tan safely via UV exposure. Using a tanning bed before age 35 increases your risk for melanoma by 75 percent.
Paths to Prevention
Despite taking every precaution, of course, some people still get cancer. And, some never get the disease, even when they have numerous risk factors. That’s because most cancers contain a genetic component. In the case of melanoma, Dr. Steppie’s research into an entirely different area has unexpectedly given hints at new treatment options. Vitiligo research he and colleagues conducted in collaboration with medical research institute Sanford Burnham Prebys holds promise for fighting melanoma, too, as Dr. Steppie suspects the same biomarkers may affect both diseases.
Though a definitive treatment that prevents or eliminates melanoma is years away, Dr. Steppie continues his mission to warn the public about the dangers of skin cancer, to provide advanced treatments at Associates in Dermatology, and to research into how diseases of the skin develop and spread.
Do you have a concern about melanoma or another skin condition? The physicians at Associates in Dermatology can help. Call 800-827-SKIN for an appointment.