Temperatures are rising and the sun is shining--and that means bathing suits, sun dresses, shorts…and sun tanning. But before you head for the pool, beach, or tanning salon to get that bronzed glow, clinicians at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital urge you to heed cancer risk warnings and be smart about sun protection.
“Many people believe that a tan enhances their appearance and makes them look younger and healthier,” explains Thomas Joseph, MD, oncologist on Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital’s medical staff. “The truth is that frequent exposure to the sun causes premature aging and makes the skin become thick, wrinkled, and leathery.”
But the most dangerous consequence of sun exposure isn’t wrinkles or leathery skin, Joseph reported. It’s a significantly increased risk of skin cancer, with the two most common types being basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma, is more dangerous but less common.
The American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 1 million cases diagnosed annually in the United States. Skin cancer is a result of long-term exposure to sunlight, which emits ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays that damage skin cells. Anyone can get skin cancer, but it is more common in people who:
- Spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned
- Have light-colored skin, hair and eyes
- Have a family member with skin cancer
- Are over age 50
“Although most people know that sunburns can occur even on a cloudy or winter day, many don’t realize that most skin damage occurs before age 18 and each sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer,” reports Bernard Raskin, MD, dermatologist and skin cancer expert affiliated with Henry Mayo. “It’s important to protect children and yourself by limiting the exposure to strong sunlight and adopting sun protection measures throughout the year.”
Sun protection measures include wearing protective clothing and a hat, as well wrap-around sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them. Dr. Raskin advises protective measures against skin damage, including:
- Stay out of the sun when it is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
- Fully cover all body areas with sunscreen, preferably with an SPF of 30 or higher, and reapply every 2 hours when outdoors
- Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds
Dr. Raskin also recommends checking skin regularly for any suspicious skin markings or changes in the size, shape, color or feel of birthmarks, moles and spots and seeking prompt medical attention if anything is discovered.
“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,” said Dr. Raskin. “Caught in the early stages, skin cancer is almost always curable.”
For more information about the symptoms, risks, and treatment of skin cancer, visit the American Cancer Society web site at www.cancer.org .
For more information about Henry Mayo’s services or to locate a physician, visit Henry Mayo’s web site at www.henrymayo.com .
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