JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - The supply sergeant from the 259th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion ensures Soldiers are protected from the hot Iraqi sun by having a supply of sun block for every Soldier in the unit since arriving at here in August 2008.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation in New York, N.Y., battling sun exposure is part of daily life for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially during the summer, when temperatures can soar to 120 degrees. SCF suggests protecting yourself from sun damage as the number one way to prevent skin cancer.

"Historically Soldiers do not protect themselves enough from the sun," said Maj. Jefferey S. Romig, a physician assistant with the 215th Area Support Medical Company, a National Guard unit from Edinburgh, Ind.

Romig, native of Danville, Ill., said Soldiers should avoid the sun whenever possible, and wear a high sun protection factor sunscreen every day. He suggests SPF 30 or higher for light skin, SPF 15 or higher for darker skin reapply frequently.

"There is a myth that darker skin doesn't need protection, but that is not true." said Romig.

Sgt. Frank C. Palmer, supply sergeant for the 259th CSSB and native of Denver, Colo., said items like sun block, SPF chapstick and boonie hats that protect from the sun can all be ordered by supply sergeants.

"We [supply sergeants] love taking care of Soldiers," Palmer said. "If Soldiers need these items, we are happy to get them."

According to the SCF, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with more than a million new cases of skin cancers diagnosed annually. SCF also reports each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.

Romig said Soldiers are at a greater risk in Iraq because Soldiers think they are covered by their long sleeve uniform. He said they don't realize their face, ears and neck area is the highest risk for skin cancer.

SCF reports more than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, primarily melanoma. Additionally they report one person dies of melanoma every 62 minutes.

"There are several types of skin cancers that can be deadly," Romig said. "Melanoma is the worst and can lead to death within six months after it is identified."

Soldiers should be doing monthly self exams to spot any suspicious moles or growths, Romig said. He said Soldiers need to use a mirror to check their back or do buddy checks with each other.

"To inspect suspicious spots, look at the area around the spot, the border, the color and the diameter," Romig said. "If it changes at all, consult a doctor."

Romig also warns that small sores that don't heal can be a sign of skin cancer. He said if a sore doesn't heal within two weeks, it needs to be seen by a doctor right away.

"If you have any moles or growths larger then a pencil eraser, get that checked out as well," Romig said.

Romig said the process for skin cancer prevention starts with the Soldier.

"The Soldier needs to prevent sun exposure, identify new growths or abnormal skin lesions and seek treatment when they find something," Romig said.

SIDEBAR

How to Spot Skin Cancer from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

Coupled with a yearly skin exam by a doctor, self-examination of your skin once a month is the best way to detect the early warning signs of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, the three main types of skin cancer. Look for a new growth or any skin change.

Aca,!Ac Examine head and face, using one or two mirrors. Use blow-dryer to inspect scalp.
Aca,!Ac Check hands, including nails. In full-length mirror, examine elbows, arms, underarms.
Aca,!Ac Focus on neck, chest, torso. Women: Check under breasts.
Aca,!Ac With back to the mirror, use hand mirror to inspect back of neck, shoulders, upper arms, back, buttocks, legs.
Aca,!Ac Sitting down, check legs and feet, including soles, heels, and nails. Use hand mirror to examine genitals.


STORY BY SGT CRYSTAL REIDY
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Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16