HEALTH

Utah oncologist talks cancer prevention ahead of Memorial Day

May 22, 2024, 10:54 AM

Sunscreen for cancer prevention...

MaryAnn Gerber puts sunscreen on her daughter Maggie Gerber, 8, at their home in Layton on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. MaryAnn Geber had melanoma at age 23. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — May is skin cancer awareness month and a good time to discuss what we can do to prevent cancer.

For many, Memorial Day weekend will mean spending several hours outdoors in the sun. Huntsman Cancer Institute Deputy Director Dr. Theresa Werner said that means wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer.

Werner is a practicing oncologist. While treatments for various cancers have high success rates, she said they still stress cancer prevention. 

“We talk about sun safety all the time. We live in a state at high altitude and we love our outdoor sports,” Werner said. “Melanoma is actually a very high, prevalent cancer here in Utah.

“So, wearing sunscreen, covering up when you’re out in the sun, something as simple as that, you could prevent cancer from happening in the first place.”

Cancer prevention and screenings

According to Werner, if primary prevention doesn’t work, catching cancer early through screening is the next best option.

“If I look at women, I talk about doing mammograms and breast exams, for example. Usually, they’ll start anywhere between age 40 and 50. If you think about males too … we do recommend that they get their PSA check.”

Additionally, younger people can take steps toward cancer prevention.

“We know the HPV virus can cause a lot of cervix cancers for example. So, we encourage young girls and boys both to get the HPV vaccine because that could decrease a woman’s risk of cervical cancer.”

Werner said if you find something that’s persistent, or that’s not going away, then you need to get in and see a doctor so you have the best chance of catching problems early.

“The earlier you find the cancer, the less cancer there is we hope and maybe more treatable in a higher chance for cure.”

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Utah oncologist talks cancer prevention ahead of Memorial Day