Protecting student athletes from skin cancer

While some students are enjoying summer vacation, others are getting ready to start practices for fall sports. Dr. Jigarkumar Parikh, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University, wants to share five ways to protect your child from the dangers of the sun while they’re training.

“It’s important to protect your skin while enjoying your favorite outdoor activities,” Parikh said. “If the scorching temperatures we’ve seen so far are any indication, this summer’s going to be a hot one.”

According to the American Cancer Society, basal and squamous cell skin cancers are often found on areas of the body exposed to the sun including the head, neck and arms. There are 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers diagnosed each year. To reduce your risk, Parikh offers these five sun safety precautions:

1.) Know your enemy. Just like watching film of an opponent’s previous game, it’s important to know what types of exposure your skin gets under the sun. The first is Ultraviolet A light. Your bare skin is exposed to the UVA rays throughout the day. They penetrate deep into skin and can lead to skin sagging, loss of elasticity, pigment changes, deep wrinkles and dry skin. The second kind of light is Ultraviolet B. UVB rays are greatest during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. They are the part of the sun that causes sunburn. It’s important to remember both UVA and UVB rays can increase your risk of skin cancer.

2.) Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re Caucasian, African-American, Asian, or any other race, all complexions can develop skin cancer. People with fair skin and blond or red hair may burn easier and quicker, but those with darker skin need to use sunscreen and take preventative measures too.

3.) Keep the sunscreen handy. Make sure to stash a bottle of sunscreen in your bag each day before you head out to the field. You want to look for a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15. SPF measures how long it takes sunscreen-protected skin to begin to burn, or turn red, as compared to unprotected skin. For instance, if it takes unprotected skin 10 minutes to burn, then skin protected with an SPF value of 15 will take 150 minutes, or two and a half hours, to burn. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially after sweating, in which case a water-resistant variety should be used.

4.) Know when to head for shade. Coaches, while it’s important to make sure your players are giving their best effort at practice, it’s also important to take steps to protect their skin from the sun. If a player’s shadow is shorter than they are, they’re more likely to get sunburn. When that happens, it’s time to seek the shade or head indoors.

5.) Know your skin. While protecting your skin from the sun can help prevent problems, it is also important to check your body once a month. A self-exam from from head-to-toe can help you find changes in your skin. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice something that isn’t normal.


Writer: Chris Curry

For more information about attending the Medical College of Georgia at the Medical Partnership campus

Learn More Apply Now