Initiative helps raise awareness of skin cancer throughout summer months
By Mark Newman
As May arrives this weekend with the promise of warmer overall temperatures across North America, this is a good time to remind all Major League Baseball fans how to enjoy the great outdoor game and sultry days in a safe way.
MLB, all 30 clubs and its players will once again promote sun safety and raise awareness of skin cancer this spring and summer through the 2016 Play Sun Smart initiative, which has launched throughout the league. Play Sun Smart is a joint effort by MLB, the MLB Players Association and the American Academy of Dermatology to raise awareness of skin cancer and offer prevention and detection tips to the baseball community.
USA Baseball created an educational module about skin cancer awareness and sun safety. As part of the materials, a video was created featuring Dr. Darrell Rigel of the AAD, a board-certified dermatologist and consultant for the Yankees. The module is available to parents and fans nationwide through USABaseball.education.
Clubs will activate the program in a variety of ways, including first pitches and on-field ceremonies for special guests affected by skin cancer, young fans delivering sunscreen to dugouts, an animated scoreboard race that was introduced in 2013 to educate fans about playing safe in the sun, and more.
Take a photo of yourself and your family applying sunscreen during your team's seventh-inning stretch and tweet to #PlaySunSmart followed by your team's official hashtag (ie #Angels), and MLB may name you Sun Smart Fan of the Game.
Additionally, MLB players, coaches and staff from all 30 clubs and the Commissioner's Office will serve as role models for fans by participating in skin cancer screenings and practicing sun-safe behaviors throughout the year.
Since 1999, AAD dermatologists have conducted nearly 39,000 skin cancer screenings through the Play Sun Smart program. More than 1,300 suspicious lesions, including 168 suspected melanomas, have been detected through the Play Sun Smart Club and Commissioner's Office screenings. Just like players and club employees, fans are asked to practice safe sun behaviors and to find a free skin cancer screening in their area by visiting PlaySunSmart.org.
An estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. It is highly treatable when detected early, so fans are encouraged to regularly look over their entire body, including hard-to-see areas, for suspicious spots. If you notice any irregular spots on your skin, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.
Here are four pro tips:
• Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin. "Broad-spectrum" sunscreen provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply about every two hours, even on cloudy days, or after swimming or sweating. The seventh-inning stretch is a perfect time to reapply sunscreen.
• Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
• Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses where possible.
• Check your skin for signs of skin cancer. Checking your skin and knowing your moles are key to detecting skin cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages. If you spot anything changing, growing or bleeding, see your dermatologist.
The Play Sun Smart program is one of several cancer-related initiatives supported by MLB. Other initiatives include Stand Up To Cancer, whose mission is to support groundbreaking scientific research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients quickly; the Mother's Day Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer initiative, which helps increase awareness of breast cancer and raise money toward the search for a cure; and the Prostate Cancer Foundation's Home Run Challenge, which increases awareness of prostate cancer and raises money for the search for a cure as part of the MLB Father's Day celebration.
Initiatives also include Strike Out Cancer, created by Rockies reliever Jason Motte and supported by players on all teams. Players with foundations or support organizations dedicated to cancer-related causes include many players such as Nolan Arenado, Craig Breslow, Andrew Cashner, Ike Davis, Freddie Freeman, Yovani Gallardo, Derek Holland, Craig Kimbrel, John Lester, Andrew McCutchen, Logan Morrison, Buster Posey, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Seager and Jerome Williams.
To learn more about sun safety and the Play Sun Smart program, as well as MLB's various charitable initiatives, please visit MLBCommunity.org.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.