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Experts warn of skin cancer risk, urge sunscreen during morning routine

Experts say with the sun coming out for summer, skin cancer is a serious concern even here in Seattle. (AP file)

Cancer is probably something you don’t think about as you get ready for work. But it’s worth consideration, especially during this stretch of sunny, summer weather. The Seattle area has among the highest rates in the nation of a deadly skin cancer.

Very few people are in the habit of slathering on sunscreen in the morning but it’s something Dr. Margaret Madeleine at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle recommends. “Two tablespoons is about a shot glass worth of sunscreen so I call that slathering.”

New federal labeling rules make it easier to know that you’re getting the right sun protection. Madeleine recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen, meaning it protects against UVB and UVA rays, the ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer. Even in Seattle.

“In fact, we have as much, if not more melanoma, which is the worst kind of skin cancer, in the Seattle area,” said Madeleine. She blames what she calls sun-seeking behavior.

“People have only intermittent exposure to the sun so I think they feel like they really want to make sure they get a good dose when they get exposed,” speculated Madeleine.

Most skin cancer is not fatal, it’s the non-melanoma type.

“Melanoma, on the other hand, can be quite lethal and it’s increasing in incidence every year,” Dr. Madeleine warned. She urged parents to protect children, saying the highest risk for melanomas tend to be exposures early in life.

Madeleine recommends sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or 30 but thinks any number higher than that is unnecessary.

This week, we reported on an Australian study that suggests daily use of sunscreen can keep skin young-looking.

“My passion is to get people to use sunscreen so if this helps, if they think they’re going to look younger for longer, it works for me,” Madeleine laughed.

WebMD offers tips for using sunscreen, including applying it about 15 minutes before you head outside, giving it time to absorb into the skin. Sunscreen should be re-applied every couple of hours and again after sweating or swimming. Check the expiration date on your sunscreen product since it can lose its effectiveness over time and don’t rely on just sunscreen for protection. Wear a widebrim hat and sunglasses plus sun-protective clothing.

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