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Fox Chase Cancer Center Offers A Word of Advice To Sun Worshippers and Their Children this Memorial Day

PHILADELPHIA (May 27, 1999) -- With the unofficial start of summer here, many people throughout the Delaware Valley are looking forward to spending more time outdoors. We all know the importance of protecting ourselves from the sun's harmful rays, but it is particularly vital that we protect our children. Kids may tan quickly in the summer months, but the less visible damage of solar radiation lingers on and accumulates over a lifetime.

"Although sunburns are bad at any age, children who burn easily and frequently are especially at risk for skin cancer later in life," said Joseph Kusiak, M.D. of Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia. "Research shows a link between sunburns that occur during childhood and adolescence and an increased risk of melanoma and other skin cancers in adulthood."

Every year, more than a million Americans develop some form of superficial skin cancer--basal-cell or squamous-cell. These cancers are readily treated, but they signal damage that might also lead to the life-threatening skin cancer known as melanoma. Among young people, melanoma is increasing faster than any other cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. It is already the most common cancer for women 25 to 29 and the second most common cancer for women 30 to 34. Without early treatment, melanoma doesn't limit itself to the skin but can spread to other organs in the body.

"Melanoma can be prevented by protecting yourself and your children from the sun, but using sunscreen isn't enough. It may protect people from sunburns but not necessarily from melanoma or skin cancer," said Dr. Kusiak.

That's because most sunscreen products primarily block the ultraviolet B rays that cause sunburn but don't screen out ultraviolet A rays. However, both UVB and UVA rays can produce cancer-causing genetic damage because they can penetrate the DNA of exposed skin cells.

UVA rays can also activate a gene that causes skin to wrinkle, yellow and sag. This is the same wavelength of ultraviolet light that some tanning salons inaccurately claim to be "safe."

Sunscreen plus protective clothing-especially a hat with a brim-is the best solution. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor-SPF-of at least 15 when spending time outdoors. Reapply sunscreen often, because sweating, water and rubbing of the skin wears off the sunscreen (even if the bottle reads "waterproof," "sweatproof" or "rubproof"). Apply the sunscreen on yourself and your child at least 30 minutes before going outdoors so it will penetrate the skin.

Other summertime do's and don'ts include:

  • Limit sunbathing to an hour or two.
  • Avoid the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is most intense. Even on overcast days, most ultraviolet rays penetrate the clouds.
  • Remember that many outdoor areas-swimming pools and natural bodies of water, sandy beaches and concrete patios-reflect sunlight and intensify your exposure.
  • If you or your child do start to sunburn, cover up at once or go indoors and use a soothing cream.

Fair-skinned people who freckle easily are most at risk of all skin cancers, but no one is immune. And in the case of melanoma, people with suppressed immune systems due to some medications are also more vulnerable.

Signs of skin cancer include scaly patches that don't heal, pearly bumps that grow, a rapidly growing new mole or a tingling, itching feeling in an old mole as well as changes in color, texture, size, shape or thickness of moles or other skin lesions. If any of these changes occur, bring your child or yourself to your doctor.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 35 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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