World Cancer Day: United in the Fight Against Cancer

Feb 1, 2018

Specialized care through our Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center puts Accredo on the frontlines of prevention awareness.

New Pill Bottle

Innovative oncology therapies are changing and saving lives. Yet the occurrence of cancer continues to drastically increase. Globally, the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise to 21 million by 2030, from 14 million new cases in 2012.

World Cancer Day, Feb. 4, is an effort to unite people across the globe in the fight against cancer. With an aim to save millions of preventable deaths each year, this is a time to raise awareness and education about all forms of cancer.

At Accredo’s Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center, we’re committed to managing the complex issues associated with oncology medications. Through drug-specific protocols, our pharmacists, nurses, and staff are able to identify and resolve barriers to compliance and help patients manage prescription usage associated with comorbidities. We also establish a personal relationship with patients, their physicians, and caregivers. This level of specialized care puts Accredo on the frontlines of raising prevention awareness.

Through my work with patients, I witness every day the hope and improved health outcomes patients experience thanks to their medication. There’s also great hope and progress being made in cancer prevention. In fact, between 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable.

Melanoma Prevention: Vampire No More

When I think of cancer prevention, I think of the measures that can be taken to decrease the risk of skin cancer. And, then, I think of Dracula… You remember Dracula – the character in Bram Stoker’s novel. While most vampire stories take place in the dark, Dracula was no stranger to sunshine (even if his supernatural powers were ineffective in the daylight.) Dracula took precautions in the sun, and so must we.

Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers. Annually, 76,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma, which is often regarded as the most deadly type of skin cancer. Melanoma results from damage to skin melanocytes. These cells produce a coloring called melanin which helps to prevent skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. The UV light damages the DNA in the cells, which regulate how the cell grows. Once the disease spreads to other organs, it can be very difficult to treat. Reducing risk factors and limiting sun exposure are important pieces to melanoma prevention.

Below are some tips on how to prevent skin cancer:

  • Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.
  • Wear clothing to cover skin. Sun-protective clothing is an option if you’ll be in the sun for an extended period.
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 15 SPF and reapply often. If you don’t have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head or wear a hat.
  • Choose sunglasses with long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet (UVB) rating of 100%. What’s the difference? UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layers. UVB rays typically burn the superficial layers of the skin and play a key role in the development of skin cancer. (By the way, pricier sunglasses don’t guarantee greater protection.)

Take Time for Sunscreen

Sunscreen is an important factor in melanoma prevention. Sunscreen helps to absorb the harmful UV rays that are emitted by the sun, which can damage skin and lead to melanoma. Not all sunscreens are created equal; they are rated on the amount of sun protection factor (SPF) they provide. The SPF relates to the magnitude of solar exposure and has nothing to do with the amount of time it takes to be sunburned. For example, an SPF of 30 does not mean it would take you 30 times longer to become burned when wearing the product. It only means that you have a stronger shield applied to your skin, but would still need to reapply based on the directions on the packaging.

When reviewing sunscreens, it is important to consider the type of UV radiation it is blocking. Typical SPF ratings only relate to the amount of UVB protection, but it is important to find a sunscreen that also provides UVA protection. Any sunscreen that has a broad spectrum SPF value will provide protection from both UVA and UVB radiation.

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before use is needed, and it should be reapplied every two hours or sooner if swimming or sweating. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to these often overlooked areas: ears, nose, lips, back of neck, hands, tops of feet, hairline or head.

Give Your Skin a Checkup

Early detection is a key piece of treatment for skin cancer. Melanoma is much more difficult to treat if it is diagnosed at a more advanced stage, thus making early detection crucial. The American Academy of Dermatology and the American Cancer Society recommend regular checkups for skin irregularities or changes best remembered by the mnemonic ABCDE. These letters correspond to the following: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving characteristics. Other warning signs that don’t fit into the mnemonic are new spots or moles that itch, bleed or change color.

If you have paler/lighter skin tones, you may be able to recognize skin changes since melanoma usually has tan, brown, or black areas. Those with darker skin tones have a lower risk of developing skin cancer, but when it is diagnosed, it is usually at a later stage. The baseline darker tones may make it difficult to identify changes so it is important that each of us gets to know our own skin. While it seems obvious to check areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, be sure to check areas that are unexposed to the sun and areas that are easy to overlook.

Each of us is our own advocate in preventing melanoma. We don’t need to fear the sun like the mythological vampire, but we do need to make sure we take the necessary precautions.

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