MLB continues to fight skin cancer

MLB continues to fight skin cancer

Major League Baseball and the Players Association are teaming up with the American Academy of Dermatology again this summer to fight skin cancer.

The "Play Sun Smart" program, which is embarking on its 10th season, is aimed at educating people about the dangers of skin cancer and is near and dear to the heart of Commissioner Bud Selig. Accordingly, MLB has designated Saturday -- the first day of summer -- as "Skin Cancer Awareness Day" throughout the Major Leagues.

On account of early detection, Selig was able to survive skin cancer, a Level IV melanoma that was surgically removed from his forehead nearly four years ago.

"Because of that, I'm obviously very sensitive about the issue and I was pretty sensitive before that," Selig said. "It's amazing that people don't understand how skin cancer has spread. This is very meaningful to me. I want to do everything I can to make people aware of this and what they should do to ward it off."

Skin cancer is a potentially life-threatening disease that strikes one in every five Americans.

More than one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, with about 8,000 of those victims losing their lives -- one every 62 minutes on average.

More than 19,000 skin-cancer screenings of MLB players, trainers, coaches and staff have been conducted since the "Play Sun Smart" program's inception in 1999.

In celebration of the 10th year of the program, MLB is releasing a new public-service announcement that will be played at ballparks across the country featuring past and present spokesmen, urging the public to avoid the cause of skin cancer -- too much sun.

MLB also will distribute sun safety tip cards at guest services in all ballparks and sun safety messages will be made by the public-address announcers.

"Long before early detection of my own Level IV melanoma, Major League Baseball was committed to educating and warning our teams and our fans about the dangers of sun exposure and skin cancer," Selig additionally said in a statement. "We've been playing sun smart for 10 years now and while there is still a lot of education to be done, I am proud that baseball is a leader in the fight against skin cancer.

"I encourage the public to get skin-cancer screening from a dermatologist because it could save your life. When it comes to the sun, we want all of our field personnel, front office staff and fans to play smart and defeat skin cancer."

MLB and the players union have teamed on a number of cancer initiatives, including Susan G. Komen for the Cure and The Prostate Cancer Foundation in their fights against breast cancer and prostate cancer. Since 1997, MLB has raised more than $30 million for prostate cancer research through its annual Home Run Challenge.

Last month, MLB joined a new initiative aimed at generating funds for cancer research, called "Stand Up To Cancer." MLB was the first donor to the program and pledged to provide an initial contribution of $10 million.

"I can't tell you how important I feel this all is," Selig said. "We're working on this and a lot of programs. That's what this particular initiative is all about."

As far as skin cancer is concerned, limiting sun exposure is the simplest way to avoid the disease. People can conduct their own self-examinations by regularly perusing the entire body, including the back, scalp, soles, between the toes and the palms to check for any detectable moles. If one notices any changes in size, color, shape or texture of the mole, he or she should see a dermatologist immediately.

Anyone can be screened for skin cancer by visiting the Academy's Web sites at www.PlaySunSmart.org or www.aad.org to find a free screening location in his or her area.

Through this public service, which began in 1985, dermatologists have volunteered to conduct more than 1.8 million skin-cancer screenings and have detected 180,170 suspicious lesions, including 20,933 suspected melanomas.

By "Being Sun Smart" and taking these precautions, everyone can have "fun in the sun."

1. Generously apply water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 that provides broad-spectrum protection from both Ultraviolet A and Ultraviolet B rays to all exposed skin. Re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Look for the AAD seal of recognition on products that meet these criteria.

2. Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

3. Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.

4. Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, using protective clothing, and applying sunscreen.

5. Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as those elements reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

6. Get Vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don't seek Vitamin D solely from the sun.

7. Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you've been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

In summation, taking precautions and undergoing skin screening can go a long way to warding off skin cancer.

"The baseball community continues to set a good example of sun-safe behavior," said Dr. Brian B. Adams, a dermatologist and chair of the academy's sports committee. "We encourage everyone, including baseball players and fans, to regularly conduct skin self-examinations to look for signs of skin cancer, which can be successfully treated if caught early."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.