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Experts Offer Tips For Spotting Skin Cancer Checking For Changes In Skin Can Prevent Death, Doctors Say

Tue., April 11, 1995

Skin cancer experts are calling on Americans to save their own skins by checking regularly for signs of the disease.

Skin cancer kills one American every hour, even though it can be cured if detected early, said Dr. Lowell A. Goldsmith of the American Academy of Dermatology.

“Look at your spouse. Look at your kids. Examine each other,” he said at a news conference Monday, calling on people to be wary of any change, growth or darkening of a mole or other spot on the skin.

About a million new cases of skin cancer are expected this year, with 8,500 deaths, Goldsmith said at a weekend conference on skin-cancer prevention.

Goldsmith and others also praised the government’s Ultraviolet Index, which provides daily forecasts of the potential danger from the sun in 58 cities.

“The UV Index is a very powerful weapon … against skin cancer,” said Goldsmith. Excess ultraviolet radiation is the prime factor in developing skin cancer, doctors said.

But that index, launched last June 28, may itself be threatened.

In an era of budget-cutting, the National Weather Service has been debating whether it should continue to forecast UV radiation or allow the program to be shifted to private companies.

The Weather Service was not represented at Monday’s news conference. Spokesman Barry Reichenbaugh said later that the future of the index remains under review, with a decision possible by the end of the week.

Dr. Clay J. Cockerell, a Dallas dermatologist, pointed out that skin cancer is curable if caught early, and easily avoided by wearing wide-brimmed hats, protective clothing and sunscreen and avoiding the outdoors around noon, when the sun is most intense.

But use of sunscreens shouldn’t induce overconfidence, the doctors said, warning that the most intense exposure should be avoided. And they noted that even people with black skin can get skin cancer, plus other damage from UV radiation including cataracts, dry skin and wrinkling.

“Any type of suntan is a sign of damage to the skin,” said Cockerell.


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