Summertime means plenty of fun in the sun for many. “I would burn on Saturday and Sunday, peel by Wednesday and be back on the water by the next Saturday doing the same thing,” says Thomas Randall, a man in his 70s who spent much of his youth at a lake or a beach trying to tan a pale complexion. But countless hours of sun exposure have taken a toll on his skin, and he now needs regular examinations to search for pre-cancerous moles. “I had two moles cut off my chest and a major incision on my left leg to remove another mole,” Kendall says. He’s also had lesions removed from his face and both ears.
Craig Elmets, M.D., chair of the UAB department of dermatology, says protecting skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, is the number one way to avoid potential skin problems. “Sunscreen should be worn daily and re-applied often, even if the sky is cloudy. A hat and sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection also protect against melanoma, a form of skin cancer than can occur anywhere on the body, even in the eye,” Elmets explains. Keeping a check on moles is also important, and any changes in moles shape, color or texture should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist. Elmets is also researching various drugs to find Elmets’ research focuses on drug-based skin-cancer prevention. In 2010 Elmets demonstrated the drug Celebrex may help prevent some non-melanoma skin cancers. Now, he is investigating other medications that could keep skin cancer from developing in patients who are considered high risk due to a personal or family history of the disease. “Our studies are preliminary, but they have been very encouraging and we’ve found that the medications we’ve tested cause a 50 to 60 percent reduction in skin-cancer development,” Elmets says.