People gathered at the 2nd Shield Yourself event on Tuesday for a discussion about skin cancer. Students and others came to the UCF Health Center to listen to Dr. Jere Mammino and skin cancer survivor Debbie Coover share their experiences with the affliction.
Megan Pabian, coordinator of public relations and communications at the Health Center, helped originate the idea for this event last year. She explained what made her think of Shield Yourself.
“Really, it’s the prevalent use of tanning beds among college age population, and I wanted to speak to that and [Shield Yourself] evolved into a sun safety topic,” Pabian said.
Pabian explained she wants to show that the Health Center wants students to make healthy lifestyle choices through programs such as Shield Yourself.
Mammino, an outside referral specialist for the Health Center, explained the three types of skin cancer, which are Basal cell carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma, the focus of the lecture. Melanoma can spread quickly through the lymph nodes or blood to internal organs, and is listed as the leading cause of death from skin cancer, according to Mammino.
“Melanoma rates are rising worldwide faster than any other cancer,” Mammino said.
He explained that due to the recent trends such as tanning beds, which emit ultraviolet rays—the most harmful radiation from the sun—the rate of younger people contracting this disease is rising.
Mammino compared the usage of tanning beds to smoking cigarettes since they are both carcinogens and a major cause for cancer. He also noted that the risk of contracting skin cancer increases by 15 percent when using tanning beds before the age of 30.
Skin cancer can happen at any time, Mammino states. Some early warning signs to look out for are any new or changing skin growths that change color, shape or size. An average mole will be the same color throughout, have a circle or oval shape and are no bigger than a pencil eraser in diameter.
For the best preventions, Mammino listed the acronym “WAR,” which stands for Wear protective clothes, Avoid midday sun and Regulate sunscreen. He mentioned that something as simple as wearing a hat makes a big difference.
Mammino also spoke about how digital photography has become a great tool for detecting skin cancer and that there have been great advances in treatment.
“Recently there have been new chemotherapy drugs that have come out and really helped out a lot,” Mammino said.
After his presentation, Mammino offered free checks for people that had any skin concerns.
Coover, a melanoma skin cancer survivor that Pabian was put in touch with through the American Cancer Society, gave a brief history about how when she growing up the motto was “the tanner you were, the better looking you were”. She felt she made poor decisions while tanning by putting baby oil and iodine on her skin to make her darker.
In May 2009, her husband discovered an abnormal skin growth on her back, and it was later confirmed to be a malignant melanoma.
“I was very lucky that [the melanoma] was caught early and small, so I didn’t require chemo,” Coover said.
The attendance of this year’s Shield Yourself event couldn’t compare to last year’s event when it was hosted in the Student Union.
Pabian believes this is due to not hosting the event in the Student Union, which was booked during the time she needed, and a decrease in student attendance due to the summer session. Pabian hopes to have next year’s event in the Student Union in the fall to raise attendance.
Coover ended the event with what she felt was the best advice she could give to students.
“Know your body, and if you see a change, get it checked out.”