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Skin Cancer Awareness for Athletes

6/3/2014

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Athletes spend many hours in the mid-day sun, which is a major risk factor for all skin cancers, including the most serious, melanoma. Whether on the slopes, in the water, on the track, or on the field, outdoor athletes receive more ultraviolet radiation (UV) exposure than the general public for many reasons, including:

  • Intense practice and competition schedules spent outside in the sun.
  • Sweating may also contribute to UV-related skin damage because it increases an athlete’s photosensitivity of the skin, leading to the risk of sunburns.
  • Sunscreen comes off when you sweat or get wet in the water. Remember to reapply!
  • UV radiation reflects off most training grounds of athletes, including water, sand, concrete, light-colored surfaces and snow. Even when wearing a hat, UV radiation will reflect off the playing surface and can damage the skin.
  • Winter and alpine athletes receive even more sun exposure not only due to the reflection from snow and ice covered surfaces, but also because harmful rays are less able to be absorbed by the atmosphere due to the higher altitude.
  • Weakening of the skin’s immune system is another factor that may affect athletes. Very intense athletic training, such as preparation for marathons, has been reported to temporarily impair the immune function. This impaired immune function may be associated with an increased risk of some types of skin cancer, including melanoma.

Why do we have to care…..

  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.7
  • Melanoma is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than males in the same age group.
  • Current estimates are that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
  • Melanoma incidence rates have been increasing for at least 30 years.
  • A 2005 study found that basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are increasing in men and women under 40. In the study, basal cell carcinoma increased faster in young women than in young men.

Risk Factors

  • The major risk factor for melanoma of the skin is exposure to ultraviolet light.
  • In 2010, new research found that daily sunscreen use cut the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in half.
  • Increasing intermittent sun exposure in childhood and during one’s lifetime is associated with an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Awareness saves lives. Share this information with all the athletes in your life. 

Image Copyright: Peter Kim/Shutterstock