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June 2 - 15, 2012

Heat safety FROM PAGE 1 “Heat stroke is a life-threatening

emergency and while hydration is an important part of summer safety, it’s not enough. If you suspect you are suffering from heat stroke it’s crucial to seek emergency medical care. In the meantime, you need to begin cooling down as soon as possible, seek shade, use a fan or if possible, take a cool shower or bath.”

Skin deep

Another significant hazard of basking in the summer sun is developing skin cancer, a potentially disfiguring condition that can be fatal in extreme cases. “Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and skin cancer rates in Arizona are high compared to other parts of the country,” says Dr. Scott Tannehill, radiation oncologist at Arizona Radiation Oncology Specialists in Gilbert. “Each year in this country more than one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer. The risk is

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER: Dr. Daniel Aspery of Blue Cross Blue Shield Arizona offers advice on how to stay healthy in the hot months ahead. Submitted photo


linked to ultraviolet radiation exposure (UVI). Arizona is a high-risk state primarily because it is the sunniest state and has among the highest average UVI levels in the country, with an average 296 sunny days per year. This is the price we pay for living in the beautiful and sunny desert.” There are various degrees of the disease, and most cancerous growths can be treated successfully with proper medical intervention. “Skin cancers are highly curable and

rarely life-threatening,” explains Tannehill. “Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, but melanoma is rare compared to the types of non-melanoma skin cancers, which include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.”

Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most

avoidable forms of the disease. Experts recommend taking basic precautions before heading outside on sunny days to reduce the risk of developing the condition.

“The best treatment is prevention,” Tannehill reports. “Skin cancer can be prevented by shielding the skin from the sun with clothing or sunscreen. Sunscreen should be rated at SPF (sun protection factor) 15 or higher. Children in particular should follow sun-safe practices, as skin cancers are caused by accumulated sun exposure over a person’s lifetime.”

Treatment options When a skin cancer is diagnosed, patients have

several options for removing the dangerous cells. “Surgery is safe and effective,” says Tannehill.

LEARN, DON’T BURN: Dr. Scott Tannehill, radiation oncologist at Arizona Radiation Oncology Specialists in Gilbert, offers advice on preventing and treating skin cancer. Submitted photo

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“A surgical technique practiced by specialist dermatologists called Moh’s micrographic surgery is particularly useful in removing skin cancers while preserving the patient’s normal anatomy and appearance. Most cancers on the face are removed with


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PROTECT THIS HOUSE: Experts recommend an SPF of at least 15. Skin cancer usually occurs after years of sun exposure, making Arizona-born kids especially susceptible.

the Moh’s technique.” For patients worried about scars, a new medical

technique uses radiation to destroy cancerous growths. “Radiation therapy may have value for some patients,”

Tannehill explains. “There is no surgical wound to worry about with radiation therapy, but patients usually develop a radiation skin reaction similar to a mild to moderately severe sunburn that heals over several weeks. There are some situations where radiation can offer superior long term outcomes compared to surgery, but in most cases surgery is the best choice.” The key point to consider when deciding on a course

of care is the qualifications of the doctor performing the procedure. “Patients seeking consultation and treatment for skin cancer should demand the best technology, but the skill and experience of the treating physician is the most important factor to consider when selecting a dermatologist or radiation oncologist for the management of skin cancer,” says Tannehill. Miriam Van Scott is a former Kerby Estates resident who can be reached at


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