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Keeping Kids Healthy, Active and Engaged This Summer

Summer is a time when children can let their imaginations run wild! From creating their own plays to building forts in the backyard, there’s no limit to what kids can dream up—provided their properly supported.
 
We want to ensure all kids in Oshkosh awaken their summer imaginations through healthy eating habits and physical activity. Because when a child is happy, healthy, motivated and excited something amazing is inevitably going to result. As children grow and reach their true potential, they can accomplish great things.
 
That’s why, on April 14 from 9 a.m. to Noon, we’re hosting Healthy Kids Day®, a chance to help ensure families have the tools they need to help kids stay active and engaged all summer long. The annual event is a nationwide-initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids and families. When a child is healthy, happy, motivated and excited, amazing things are bound to happen! Healthy Kids Day is a powerful reminder not to let children idle away their summer days but instead, focus on physical and mental wellbeing. At the Oshkosh YMCA Healthy Kids Day Event, families and children can ice skate, attend a Karate or Judo demonstration, check out a Scholastic Book Fair and Storytime with a special guest reader, do Family Yoga together and so much more! We love to motivate and teach families how to develop a healthy routine at home. See full event details HERE!
 
“As we head into the summer, we want to help awaken their imaginations and help them achieve amazing things. There are no days off for a child’s developing mind and body,” said Lisa Nething, Family and Special Events Director “and Healthy Kids Day is a great opportunity to educate families and engage kids to stay physically and intellectually active over the summer.”
 
In celebration of Healthy Kids Day, here are some tips to help you and your family develop healthy habits:
 
  • High Five the Fruits and Veggies – Make sure kids get at least five servings a day, the minimum number nutritionists recommend to maintain healthy childhood development. And to keep kids’ taste buds evolving, have everyone in the family try at least one bite of a new fruit or vegetable at least once a month.
  • Read Together – The summer is a great time to enjoy books with summer program participants—and 30 minutes a day goes a long way! Take trips to the local library or create a family reading challenge to see who can log the most minutes of reading. Encourage youth to create their own stories as well.
  • Get Moving! – Activities that require movement also help kids flex their mental muscle. Use materials in unique ways: ask youth to build models, manipulate tools or develop their own theatrical scenes.
  • Play Together – Play may be the best way to prevent childhood obesity. By putting more play into your family’s day, you will soon find yourself getting the activity that will have your family feeling energized and strong.
  • Make sleep a priority – Doctors recommend 10-12 hours of sleep a day for children ages 5-12 and 7-8 hours per night for adults. Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining our healthy immune system, metabolism, mood, memory, learning and other vital functions.
 


 
 

Making an Impact in Oshkosh

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change.

The Y makes a difference in our communities, but the Oshkosh YMCA makes a difference in YOUR COMMUNITY! At the Oshkosh YMCA, we live, breathe and BELIEVE in the change we are making. Our passionate, kind and caring staff strives to change lives EVERY SINGLE DAY!

We not only strive to change lives, we do change lives. The proof is in the numbers! Through our Annuan Campaign, we have made a positive impact within our community. Here are a few of the things that the Oshkosh YMCA did this past year...


Whether you're looking for a place to get fit and relieve stress, a caring environment for your children, or a volunteer program to give something back to your community, you'll find it at the Oshkosh Community YMCA. Our programs ensure that we strengthen more than just the body. We strengthen the foundation of our community.

Please consider supporting the Oshkosh YMCA Annual Campaign today. Donate here.

We are your Y and we're waiting for you. 
Join us. Support Us

Reduce Your Risk! Diabetes Prevention


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 3 U.S. adults has prediabetes, but only 10% are aware that they have it! Tuesday, March 27 is the American Diabetes Association #DiabetesAlertDay. Building a better us includes being healthy and the Oshkosh YMCA wants you to be ALERT and aware of the risks for type 2 diabetes. Let's start with the facts!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research shows that:
 
  • 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
  • 86 million Americans have prediabetes—but 9 out of 10 people do not know they have it.
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States
  • Diabetes disproportionately affects black and Latino populations (they are nearly 2 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes)
  • People with diabetes are about 50% more likely to die than people of the same age without diabetes
  • Medical expenses for people with diabetes are 2.3 times greater than those without
  • People with diabetes are at greater risk for stroke, nerve damage, blindness, dental disease, lower limb amputation, depression, and complications during pregnancy
The good news is...

If you believe you are at risk for developing diabetes, there is something you can do about it. People with prediabetes who make basic lifestyle changes have been shown to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes! Here are a few lifestyle tips and simple changes YOU can make to help reduce your risk.

Lifestyle Tips to Help Reduce Risk:
 
  1. Reduce portion sizes of the foods you eat that may be high in fat or calories.  
  2. Keep a food diary to increase awareness of eating patterns and behaviors.
  3. Incorporate more activity in your day; like taking the stairs or parking farther away from your destination.
  4. Make sure you are moderately active at least 30 minutes per day five days a week. 
  5. Drink water instead of beverages with added sugar.
  6. Talk to your health care provider about diabetes risk factors, especially if you have a family history or are overweight. 
We are here to help. Please contact our 20th Ave Health & Wellness Director, Rich Roehrick, at richroehrick@oshkoshymca.org with questions.





 

National Colorectal Cancer Screening Month

March is National Colorectal Cancer Screening Month.

Since the mid-1980s, the colorectal cancer survival rate has been improving, due in part to increased awareness and screening. Today there are currently more than one million colorectal cancer survivors in the U. S.
 
However, colorectal cancer remains the second leading cancer killer in this country — but it doesn’t have to be. Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons against colorectal cancer. 
 
How prevalent is this disease? The American Cancer Society estimates that at least 97,000 cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2018, along with 43,000 new cases of rectal cancer.
 
Both men and women are at risk for this disease. Overall, a lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 22 for men and 1 in 24 for women.
 
Since more than 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases occur in people over 50, everyone in that age group needs screening, because it could be life-saving.
 
Colorectal cancer usually starts from small benign growths, called polyps, in the large intestines. Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer. It can take as many as 10 to 15 years for a polyp to develop into colorectal cancer. Finding and removing small polyps early can actually prevent colorectal cancer from ever developing.
 
If cancer is already present, finding it early increases the chance for a cure. When found at an early stage before it has spread, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 90% for colorectal cancer.
 
Colorectal cancer is most curable when discovered BEFORE it causes any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they might include:
• A change in bowel habits
• Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool (bright red or very dark)
• Abdominal (stomach) pain, aches or cramps or frequent gas pains, bloating
• Unexplained weight loss or fatigue
 
If you experience any of these symptoms, please seek medical attention promptly. Note: These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know is to get things checked out.
 
Colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” of colorectal screening procedures. This procedure allows a physician to view the entire large intestine and see any inflamed tissue, growths, ulcers or bleeding. If anything abnormal is spotted (polyps or inflamed tissue), it can be removed during the procedure.
 
Many insurance companies cover a screening colonoscopy for people over 50. Medicare part B covers several types of colorectal screening tests, including colonoscopy, which is covered once every 120 months, subject to deductibles and co-pays.
 
Other colorectal screening tests are available that check the stool (feces) for signs of cancer. These tests are less invasive and easier to have done, but are less likely to detect polyps. If anything is found using other screening tools, a colonoscopy will need to be performed.
 
Are you at increased risk?
You may need to have colorectal cancer screening earlier or more often, if:
• You or a family member has had colorectal cancer or polyps
• You have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
• You have a history of adenomatous polyps (adenomas)
Also, people with type 2 (usually non-insulin dependent) diabetes also have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
 
There may be lots of reasons not to be screened for colon cancer — such as the time involved, the possible costs, and the advance preparation needed.
 
There is, however, one compelling reason to do it — it can save your life. So, if you (or someone you love) are age 50 or older, please arrange a colorectal screening today!

Benefits of Massage Therapy

Research continues to show the enormous benefits of touch, which is why the medical community is embracing bodywork and massage is becoming an important part of a patient’s overall care. Many hospitals are adding on-site massage practitioners to treat patients during and after all aspects of care, including post-surgery or pain patients as part of the recovery process.  Aurora Medical Center Oshkosh offers massage therapy to the public as well as through doctor referrals. Tammy Collar, Licensed Massage Therapist with Aurora Health Care Oshkosh states, “Something neat about our hospital is that we are able to offer a complimentary massage therapy to new moms who have just delivered, patients going into surgery, and those receiving cancer treatment in our Vince Lombardi Cancer Center. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to comfort patients by using gentle, non-clinical touch during those stressful times.” Aurora massage therapy offers:
 
  • Licensed massage therapists: All of our massage therapists are licensed in the state of Wisconsin. That means they’ve received special training to perform massages, so you only receive care from experts.
  • Specialty care: Our massage therapists work with your primary care doctor, including Aurora sports health doctors, to ensure your massage therapy fits into your overall treatment plan. A sports health doctor is someone who specializes in working with athletes and active adults. Meet our sports health team.
  • Comprehensive treatment: At Aurora, an entire team of experts work together to monitor your progress and personalize care to your needs. In addition to massage therapy, we offer integrative medicine like acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy and a wide range of orthopedic medicine and orthopedic surgery services.
The Mayo Clinic defines massage therapy as a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage can range from a light touch to deep pressure and there are many different types.  "A common misconception about massage therapy is that it has to hurt to work, however, each patient responds both emotionally and physically to touch in a different way. That means that each massage will look different depending on the needs of the patient. Some patients prefer to stay fully clothed, some need to sit upright and some will find great relief in simple, light, comfort touch.  We work with each patient to meet his or her individual goals during that visit,” explains Collar. Types of massage therapy available at Aurora include:
 
  • Swedish massage: This type of massage uses long, gliding strokes on the top layers of your muscles to promote relaxation.
  • Sports massage: A more vigorous type of massage, sports massage reaches deeper layers of your muscles and is ideal for athletes.
  • Prenatal massage: This type of massage is for pregnant women. It helps relieve pregnancy-related tension, aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, back and legs.
  • Geriatric massage: Ideal for older adults, geriatric massage is specifically designed to address aging and arthritis-related pain.
  • Neuromuscular therapy: This type of massage uses finger pressure on specific trigger points (painful, irritated areas) to help break the cycle of spasm or pain.
  • Craniosacral therapy: This type of massage uses gentle touch on the skull, face, spine and hips to relieve pain.
Numerous studies continue to show massage being an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain, and muscle tension. Some studies also show massage to be helpful for anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, myofascial pain syndrome, soft tissue strains or injuries, sports injuries, and temporomandibular joint pain.  "When patients realize the numerous benefits of regular massage, they make it a priority and a part of their overall healthcare," adds Collar.

Massage therapy can be a powerful partner in your healthcare regimen. For more information on massage therapy at Aurora Health Care, please call 920-456-6000.
 

Poison Control: Stay Safe in Your Home!

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, children under the age of six accounts for half of all poison exposure calls to the poison center. Adults account for 92 percent of all poison related deaths reported to the poison center.  There are many different ways people can come in contact with poison such as poison ingestion, inhalation, and absorption through the skin. Some common poisons include medicines, cleaning supplies, pesticides, anti-freeze and even energy drinks.

At a young age, children tend to put things in their mouth; this is where poisons found within the household can be dangerous. Children tend to be eye level with poisonous products found in the kitchen and bathroom.  Keep household poisons out of reach of small children. In order for children to be safe from different poisons located throughout the house, here are some simple tips that can be done to prevent poisoning:
  • Keep medicine in the original container with a child proof lid.
  • Buy safety locks for cabinets that contain poisonous products.
  • Have a carbon monoxide alarm located throughout the house.
  • Don’t tell children that medicine is “candy” in order for them to take it. Children can get the wrong impression and actually think the medicine is candy and ingest more than what is recommended.
Here are some additional tips to keep adults safe from household poisons:
  • Read and follow directions and warnings on medicine labels before taking any medicine.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist what you should be aware of when taking medicines, some medicines don’t react well to other medicines. Make sure your doctor knows everything you are taking including all prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbal remedies.
  • Turn lights on to take medicines so you are aware of what you are taking.
  • Never share prescription medicines.
  • Keep potential poisons in their original containers.
  • Do not use food containers such as cups or bottles to store household and chemical products.
  • Store food and household chemical products in separate areas.
  • Never mix household chemical products together; mixing chemicals could cause poisonous gas.
  • Turn on fans and windows when using household chemical products.
  • Make sure spray nozzles on household chemicals are directed away from the face and other people.
  • Wear protective clothing when spraying pesticides and other chemicals and stay away from areas that have recently been sprayed.
  • Don’t sniff chemical containers if you don’t know what is inside.
  • Discard old or outdated household chemical products.

Poison centers offer free, private, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day,  seven days a week. You can reach your local poison center by calling 1-800-222-1222
 

Drinking Water in Winter

Are you drinking enough water? I know it’s cold outside and you probably feel like drinking something hot, but you should not shy away from drinking the required amount of water per day during the winter months. Winter is the time when your body is easily thrown off balance and it is when you are most susceptible to viruses and bacteria. That is why drinking your daily dose of water can be extremely beneficial. Your body’s basic functioning does not change in winter; therefore changing your water drinking habits is not advisable.

How much water do you need to drink per day? Water needs depend on many factors including your health, activity level and climate. Water is your body’s main chemical component and accounts for 60 percent of your total body weight. Every system in your body depends on water, and every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, the water lost must be replaced by consumption of food and beverages that contain water.  The Institute of Medicine has determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly 3 liters (13 cups) per day. The adequate intake for women is 2.2 liters (9 cups) per day.  If you exercise or perform an activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups of water is okay for short bursts of exercise, but intense exercise for more than one hour requires more. How much more depends on how much you sweat during exercise, how long you are performing the exercise and the type of exercise. Continuing to replace fluids when you’re finished exercising is very important as well. Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and require you to drink more water. During the winter time, heated indoor air can also cause your skin to lose moisture, requiring you to increase your water intake. When you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, your body loses fluids, therefore increasing fluids during this time is very important.  Women who are expecting or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends pregnant women drink about 10 cups of water per day and women who breast-feed drink 13 cups of water per day. On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of water, for example, watermelon and tomatoes are 90 percent or more water by weight. 

What are the benefits of drinking water? According to WebMD, there are six main reasons to drink water:
  1.  Drinking water helps maintain the balance of body fluids. Functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.
  2. Water helps control calories, although it does not cause weight loss, substituting it for high-calorie beverages is very helpful.
  3. Water helps energize muscles because cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids shrivel, which results in muscle fatigue.
  4. Water helps keep skin looking good and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss.
  5. Water helps your kidneys and transporting waste products in and out of cells.  The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine.
  6. Water helps maintain normal bowel function and keeps things flowing through your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation.
Here are some tips to help you drink more water this winter:
  • Heat the water until it is nice and warm, but not hot.
  • Add a slice of lemon, fresh ginger or honey to your warm water.
  • Substitute at least two cups of tea or coffee with a cup of warm water.
  • Set a daily goal and stick to it – be conscious of the water you are consuming.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink a glass of water with each meal and snack.
  • Always have water with you, bring it along to meeting, work-outs, wherever you go!
To avoid dehydration, make sure your body has the fluids it needs and make water your beverage of choice!
 

Drugs, Alcohol and Your Health

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 an older) battled a substance use disorder. Almost 80 percent of them battled an alcohol addiction, leaving over seven million Americans battling a drug disorder. The Office on National Drug Control Policy reports drug abuse and addiction cost American society close to $200 billion in healthcare, criminal justice, legal fees, lost workplace productivity costs and more.

Abusing drugs or alcohol before the brain is fully developed (any time before a person’s mid-20’s), increases their risk for addiction later in life because of the changes these substances make to a growing brain.  The journal of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics suggests addiction is inherited about 50 percent of the time. Genetic and environmental factors are also thought to play equal roles on the onset of addiction.

The most common types of drugs abused today are cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs, marijuana, and alcohol.  Prescription drugs are abused at high rates – common types are pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. Over two million Americans over the age 11 are currently struggling with an opioid pain reliever addiction. Common signs and symptoms of drug abuse include a craving for the drug, often with unsuccessful attempts to cut down on its use; Physical dependence (development of physical withdrawal symptoms when a person stops taking the depressant); a continued need to take the drug despite drug-related psychological, interpersonal or physical problems.
 
Excessive alcohol use can lead to numerous health problems such as dementia, stroke, cardiovascular problems, psychiatric problems such as depression or anxiety, social problems such as unemployment and family problems, increased risk of cancers, liver diseases, and gastrointestinal problems. Common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include: neglecting responsibilities at home, work or school; using alcohol in dangerous situations; experiencing legal problems due to drinking, for instance, getting arrested for drinking and driving; continued drinking during relationship problems with friends, family or a spouse; drinking to de-stress, for example, getting drunk after a stressful day.

The NSDUH reports in 2013, only 10.9 percent of people who needed treatment in a specialized facility actually received it. There are many types of treatment options. The National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) reports there are over 14,000 specialized substance abuse treatment programs providing many care options for people with addiction and their family members and caregivers. The NIDA also reports that relapse will happen to about 40 to 60 percent of addicts, therefore making treatment programs even more important. Addiction is a highly treatable disease and recovery is attainable.
 
Aurora Health Care is committed to improving the lives of those affected by drug and alcohol addiction. The Aurora Health Care Foundation will host “A Cause to Celebrate” on Friday, April 13, 2018 at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the Jackie Nitschke Center. The Jackie Nitschke Center is an alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) treatment program that focuses on healing and hope, with a goal of life-long recovery. The Center offers a variety of programs, including  28-day residential treatment, intensive outpatient, outpatient/aftercare, along with family education and recovery programs.

Tickets for “A Cause to Celebrate” are available now by visiting www.give.aurora.org/cause-to-celebrate.  The event will feature dinner, entertainment and a silent and spotlight auction.  Success stories of the Jackie Nitschke Center will also be shared.  For more information contact Molly Butz at 920.456.7009.
 

Keeping a Healthy Heart







February is Heart Month, which makes it a great time to review how to keep our heart as healthy as possible. It’s also a great time to review warning signs and risk factors of a heart attack, stroke, or cardiac arrest.  Our heart is by far the busiest muscle in our body pumping nearly 2000 gallons of fresh blood daily to our body through arteries, capillaries, veins, and venules.   The benefits of a healthy heart include decreased blood pressure, increased cardiovascular efficiency, reduced risk of certain diseases, and reduced stress. 

According to the American Heart Association, a heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow can slowly become narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. This process is called atherosclerosis . When the heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrients, it is called ischemia. When damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI). About every 34 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.  Major risk factors of coronary heart disease include increasing age, gender, and family history (including race).  Modifiable risk factors (those you can change) include tobacco usage, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, body weight, and Type 2 diabetes.  Other factors that can contribute to heart disease risk are stress, alcohol and nutrition.

Most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort, therefore it is very important people understand and know heart attack warning sings.   Most heart attacks will involve some kind of discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.  This discomfort typically feels like squeezing or uncomfortable pressure.  Discomfort can occur in other areas of the upper body as well such as pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.  Shortness of breath may occur with or without chest discomfort.  The person may also break out into a cold sweat, become nauseous, or lightheaded. 

According to the National Stroke Association, a stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain.  When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost such as speech, movement and memory. Risk factors of stroke that can’t be changed are age, family history, race, gender, and prior history of stroke, TIA or heart attack.  Modifiable risk factors of stroke include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes mellitus, artery disease, atrial fibrillation, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, physical inactivity, and obesity. 

Stroke warning signs can be remembered by using the acronym F.A.S.T.
  • Face Drooping – does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm Weakness – is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms, does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty – is the person’s speech slurred, are they unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, was it repeated correctly?
  • Time to Call 9-1-1 – call 9-1-1 if the person shows any of these symptoms.
Beyond F.A.S.T., other warning signs of stroke can include sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face, sudden confusion or trouble understanding, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking or dizziness, sudden severe headache with no known cause.

The American Heart Association states a cardiac arrest is when there is an abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have been diagnosed with heart disease. The time and mode of death are unexpected. It occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear. Risk factors of cardiac arrest include scarring from a prior heart attack, a thickened heart muscle, electrical abnormalities, blood vessel abnormalities, and recreational drug use.  Warning signs of cardiac arrest are sudden loss of responsiveness (no response to tapping on shoulders) and no normal breathing.  The victim will not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five seconds.  Cardiac arrest is reversible in most victims if it’s treated within a few minutes.  If you are able to help, you should begin CPR immediately and call 9-1-1.

It’s good to learn these signs, however if you’re not sure, get to a hospital and have it checked out.  Minutes matter in these critical situations and fast action will save lives. 
 
 

What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with one million people in the United States diagnosed each year with some type of the cancer.  There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma.  The first two are non-melanoma skin cancers.  The majority of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas, and while they are malignant, they are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. A small but significant number of skin cancers are malignant melanomas, which is a highly aggressive cancer that tends to spread to other parts of the body. If not treated early, this type of cancer can be fatal.  Recent research shows the number of skin cancer cases in the United States growing at an alarming rate.

According to Dr. Elizabeth O’Connor, Plastic Surgeon with BayCare Clinic Plastic Surgery and Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic, and also practices with Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh, the most common cause of skin cancer is from UVA (ultraviolet A) or UVB (ultraviolet B) exposure.  Other causes of skin cancer include: use of tanning beds; immunosuppression, or impairment of the immune system, which normally repairs damage; exposure to high levels of radiation; and contact with certain chemicals. “Some people experience a skin cancer diagnosis after a transplant, as the drugs after make them more susceptible to skin cancer, and they reduce the body’s ability to repair the skin damage,” states Dr. O’Connor. 

The following people are greatest risk for developing skin cancer: people with fair skin, people with light hair and blue or green eyes, people with certain genetic disorders that deplete skin pigment, people who have already been treated to skin cancer, people with numerous moles or unusual moles, people with close family members with skin cancer, and people who have had at least one severe sunburn early in life. Dr. O’Connor explains, “If a person has had more the five severe sunburns in their life, their risk of skin cancer goes up 50 percent or more.”

Dr. O’Connor suggests people follow the “ABCD” guideline when identifying skin care symptoms.  A is for asymmetric, one side of the lesion does not look like the other. B is for border irregularity, margins of the area are irregular.  C is for color, melanomas are often a mixture of black, tan, brown, blue, red or white.  D is for diameter. Cancerous lesions typically have a diameter of 6mm or more. “People need to check for new or changing lesions on the skin. Beware of itching or scaling of something that has been there before. Also beware if the area starts to bleed,” explains Dr. O’Connor.

People should have their primary health care provider or dermatologist check any moles or spots that concern them.  “If you see anything new or changing, have a skin check.  For people who have had cancer before, they need to be checked more frequently,” states Dr. O’Connor.   “A physician will be able to examine any moles or areas of concern and send anything suspicious to the lab.”  Dr. O’Connor adds, “Often pre-cancerous lesions can be treated with topical creams, the rest have to be removed surgically. These cancers can be easily treated with removal, however, if left too long, they can invade deeper and become a problem.”

To reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, Dr. O’Connor recommends the following: limit sun exposure, apply sunscreen every day, use a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, reapply sunscreen every two hours, use SPF clothing and hats, avoid tanning beds, and conduct self-exams. “Nothing has demonstrated that sunscreen is harmful, but there is a definite association between childhood sunburn and cancer,” states Dr. O’Connor.

When treated properly, the cure rate for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is almost 95 percent.  Take the necessary steps to protect yourself from skin cancer. For more information on skin cancer, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org.
 
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