Cancer Center: Sun protection needed even in cooler months

When it's a hot sunny day by the pool, it's natural to reach for the sun block.  But, what about when you're tailgating on a fall day, or out running errands?

"Because our climate is so mild, ultra violet rays can be pretty intense in the fall and winter months unlike other areas of the country," said surgical oncologist Dr. John Lyons.

The Louisiana climate lends itself to year round outdoor activities. Each time you set outside, the sun is doing damage regardless of cloud cover or temperature.

Baton Rouge resident Kathryn Smith believed that using sunscreen during summer beach days was enough to protect her fair skin.  Then, after last winter, she spotted a small, odd mole on her foot.  Her dermatologist removed it and an exam showed it was in the beginning stages of skin cancer.

"It's one of those things you never think will happen to you," said Smith.

A follow up surgery ensured that all cancerous cells were removed, and Smith is left with an "S" shaped scar on her foot.

Colonel Mike Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police, had a similar experience a few years ago.  A small spot on his nose, turned out to be a growing mass of skin cancer.

"It's a moment that you think, 'How did that happen?'" said Edmonson who spends a great deal of time outside with his job.

The Superintendent of LSPD went on to say that his cancer was at a tipping point.  A few months more, and it could have spread throughout his body.

Lyons explains that most of damage to skin is done before the age of 18.

Nationwide there are 70,000 cases of melanoma each year, and Lyons says that number is growing.  Anywhere from 9,000 to 12,000 will be fatal.

That's why Mary Bird Perkins Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center has created a team of medical experts across all disciplines.  Together they hope to provide the very best in cancer care, to raise awareness and to encourage patients to remember their sun protection each day.

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