While sunshine can be a friend - warming us, growing crops, and giving light - it can be a worry, too. The sun's powerful ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) radiation can not only tan and burn the skin, it can cause skin cancer over time. The American Academy of Dermatology states that UV rays - even from indoor tanning - are directly related to the growth of basal and squamous cell carcinoma, 2 of the most common forms of skin cancer, and also of malignant melanoma, the deadliest kind.
How can we get the sunshine we need for vitamin D production and that general feeling of well-being while still protecting skin from cancerous lesions?
Tips to prevent skin cancer
The Mayo Clinic and other authorities on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all kinds of cancer say that limiting sun exposure, especially between the brightest hours of 10 A.M. and 2 P.M., will reduce the risk of developing wrinkles, "age spots," and skin cancers. When out in the sun for an extended period of time, people should wear a hat with a brim, sunglasses, long pants and tops with long sleeves. In other words, cover up.
Also, it's smart to watch how young adults and children are near sand, snow and water on sunny days because these bright surfaces reflect and intensify the sun's rays. Even cloudy days are problematic, because though it cannot be seen, the sun is still doing its work.
Other skin cancer precautions include:
- Application of sun screen lotion. A Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher is best. Reapply every 2 hours and more frequently if the lotion washes or sweats off.
- Be aware of the side effects of over the counter or prescription medications. Some drugs make the skin extra-sensitive to the sun. Check out medication side effects online, or ask a pharmacist.
- Perform a monthly self-examination of all areas of the skin, including back, scalp, between the toes and areas which never see sunshine. Look for changes in color or texture especially with moles and freckles. Tell your primary physician if you are concerned about an area of your skin.
- See a dermatologist yearly after age 40 for a routine skin examination.
In the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, Lynn Anderson MD FAAD has the health of your skin in mind. Dr. Anderson and her friendly staff want to be sure that you have the best looking skin possible, and that it is totally cancer-free. Call the office today at 918-728-3100 to schedule a consultation on the best way to care for your skin.