A room full of Cobb senior citizens learned Wednesday about how to prevent and recognize various types of skin cancer.
The “Skin Care for the Summer” class is one of many classes held every day at the Senior Wellness Center, which will celebrate its first anniversary in August. The center off Powder Springs Street in Marietta serves almost 1,500 residents per month aged 55 and older.
Linda Lee, a community educator with WellStar, taught the hour-long class. It was the first time she had presented there, but the topic is one she’s educated others on for almost 30 years.
Lee went step by step with the class of almost 15 people on how to prevent and detect skin cancer.
One of the participants is Patricia Dickens of Marietta, who has suffered with an autoimmune disorder related to her skin for the last 14 years.
“Anything I can learn, I want to, so I love that they have these wellness classes,” she said.
Dickens has had skin cancer and has heard a lot of the information before, but said it’s important to get a refresher on the topic when she can.
This isn’t the only class in which she’s participated since the center’s grand opening last August. She’s also attended the culinary and tai chi programs.
“I was thrilled that they were going to have something like this because it’s not very far from where I live,” she said.
Types of skin cancers
The most common skin cancers are basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell cancers are the most common and more than 1 million people are diagnosed with it annually.
Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer but is only detected in about 47,000 people each year.
Basal cell cancers are slow growing and are typically found on a person’s face or ears.
Squamous cell cancers usually appear on sun-exposed areas of the body and can develop within ulcers or scars. It too is slow growing. Melanoma cancers are evident in the changes of moles or freckles.
Check your skin
Lee said the best way to determine whether a person has skin cancer is to check the skin often, especially moles, freckles or sores that don’t heal.
“Always check everywhere that you can,” she said. “The most likely place to find (melanoma) are on your butt, boob or in your hairline.”
Skin cancer also can be found between fingers and toes or even in the eye.
“If something changes you should get it checked out,” she said. “This is the most important thing you can do to prevent skin cancer.” She said to check for a growth in the spots, changes in color and if it begins to hurt.
A dermatologist can confirm if there is a problem.
Prevention is key
There are ways that people can attempt to prevent skin cancer.
Lee first recommends staying inside when the sun is strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“If you are taller than your shadow, it is a more dangerous time to be outside,” she said.She said it’s important to always use a sunblock with a sun-protection factor of at least 30.
“Skin color doesn’t matter,” she said. “Everybody should use at least 30 SPF, although the darker your skin is, the more protection you should have.”
The palms and hands of individuals with dark skin are usually the most sensitive, so be sure to put sunscreen there. She also said to cover up your skin by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or visor, tightly woven clothing, specifically long-sleeve shirts or pants and polarized sunglasses.
“Even young people should be wearing sunglasses,” she said.
Background on center
The Senior Wellness Center, a 42,000-square-foot facility, opened last August and serves residents 55 years of age and older.
It offers a variety of classes including tap dancing, line dancing, hearing-aid education, games, low-impact aerobics, jewelry designing and acrylic painting, and includes a dinner theater area and full kitchen that serves $5 meals daily.
The center is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Activities run between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
For more information, call (770) 528-5355 or visit the center online at cobbseniors.org by clicking on the Senior Wellness Center tab.