Protecting against skin cancer while enjoying the sun
Susquehanna Health Dermatology
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and many of the cases could be prevented.
Your greatest risk for sun damage that can lead to skin cancer is during the summer.
That’s when the sun is closest to the Earth, and you’re wearing less clothing outdoors in order to stay cool.
There are other risks for skin cancer, including genetics, but intentional excessive UV exposure is the easiest risk factor to modify.
Protect yourself by skipping the tanning beds and by avoiding the sun’s rays, particularly when they are strongest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
When outdoors wear sunscreen, long sleeves and pants (some clothing is manufactured to provide UV protection) and use shading devices like wide brimmed hats and umbrellas.
Forget about the mythical protective base tan. There is no evidence that an early tan protects against harmful burns later in the summer; In fact, tanning indicates that damage has occurred.
To detect skin cancer at its earliest stages, conduct thorough evaluations of your skin (and your children’s skin).
An easy rule to remember is to check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you have already been diagnosed with skin cancer, atypical moles or have a family history of melanoma – then check more frequently.
SOS: Slather on Sunscreen
The best SPF for outdoor use is SPF 30. SPF 15 is found in many facial moisturizers which is good for daily use, but needs a boost if you plan to be out in the sun.
Apply generously! Use two shot glasses of lotion per application every 60 to 90 minutes. Studies show you should reapply every hour if you’re swimming or exercising.
Chemical sunscreens must be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow time to bind to the skin. Thirty minutes spent in the sun waiting for the chemicals to start working could result in serious sun damage to your skin.
Sunscreens containing titanium and zinc oxide provide more immediate protection.
The ABCD’s of skin cancer
If you notice a sudden or continuous change in the appearance of a mole, you should see your doctor.
These ABC D’s from the American Melanoma Society can help you evaluate your skin:
A – Asymmetry: one side of a mole or dark spot looks different from the other side
B – Border: Irregular instead of being circular or oval, the mole has a jagged edge, notch or blur
C – Color: Look for uneven color or shades of brown, tan, black, pink or blue
D – Diameter: A diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser
You should also alert your doctor about:
appearance of a new bump or nodule
color spreads into surrounding skin
redness or swelling beyond the mole
any symptomatic mole
E-Evolving or changing in any way.
Karen M. Brady, MD, is a dermatologist at Susquehanna Health Dermatology at Grampian Boulevard. Board certified in dermatology, she is a graduate of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency at Geisinger Medical Center.