Preventive medicine can be as important as health insurance

Securing a good health insurance policy is an important way to ensure one's physical well-being, but it's not the only thing to consider.

Securing a good health insurance policy is an important way to ensure one's physical well-being, but it's not the only thing to consider.

For example, preventive measures such as eating right and exercising are important to one's overall health, as is taking some simple steps like being on guard against skin cancer.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, and about one person dies of melanoma each hour, or about 11,000 per year.

With that in mind, the academy is emphasizing the importance of sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15, especially for those working outside such as farmers. Protective clothing is also recommended, and people are also advised to avoid tanning beds and to be careful around snow, sand and water because these can increase the chance of sunburn, as well as skin cancer dangers in the process.

Finally, the organization recommends routine self-examinations for moles and lesions that could turn out to be cancerous, especially if they happen to have irregular borders or change shape or color. Warning signs include marks that are larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser or moles that simply look unlike others that may be on a person's body.

To avoid skin cancer, people can also try wearing protective clothing, such as broad-brimmed hats that shield from the sun, as well as taking vitamin D supplements.

However, a separate report in the Metro newspaper notes that genetics can be a factor in skin cancer as well as exposure. The newspaper quoted Dr. Jason Lee of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia as saying that along with genetics, there are also "other factors we're not aware of at this point."

The newspaper notes that people with blue eyes and blond or red hair may be among those most at risk for skin cancer. One's racial background can also play a role in their odds of developing skin cancer. Some skin cancers are also said to be found on parts of the body that rarely, if ever are exposed to sunlight.

"If you're at risk, you need to be more aware of your skin. You especially need to pay attention to brown spots and moles - if there are changes, or if new spots occur, seek help from a dermatologist," Dr. Lee told the newspaper.

Interestingly, a recent article from Health Day News noted that periods of short-term stress have been found to boost the immune system and help guard against some skin cancers in experiments formed on mice.

The report quoted one researcher as saying that in time, this finding could offer the potential to take greater advantage of the body's natural defenses when it comes to skin cancer and other conditions.

Until greater progress is made in such research, people will simply have to exercise caution when out in the sun, and keep checking themselves for any potential signs of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 8,650 people are expected to die from melanoma, a particularly deadly form of skin cancer, this year. On top of that, a total of 68,720 new cases are expected to be reported.

The ACS also notes that melanoma accounts for only 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, but accounts for the most overall skin cancer deaths.

Overall, taking some basic prevention steps can go a long way towards protecting one's health and avoiding expensive health insurance claims and medical treatments.

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Posted: October 6, 2009

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