With summer around the corner that means bronzed bodies and pink faces, as more people spend hours by the pool or enjoy a backyard barbecue. Unfortunately, the sun’s rays as well as tanning bed exposure can cause serious damage to skin. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, making it the most common cancer in the United States.
“Skin cancers are an evolution, resulting from an accumulation of sun damage,” said Paul Friedman, M.D., a dermatologist at The Methodist Hospital in Houston. “Recent research has shown that even people who have survived melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, still choose to not protect themselves from the sun, and even continue to tan. But, there are easy ways prevent the sun damage you see today from becoming skin cancer tomorrow.”
Friedman suggests these tips.
1. Avoid sun during peak hours. Avoid sun exposure during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun does the most damage to your skin. Apply a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 every four hours and spend periods of time in the shade.
2. Avoid tanning booths. Tanning booths concentrate the light, so you burn faster. Tanning beds expose users to both UV-A and UV-B rays, which cause photoaging and has been linked to melanoma. The World Health Organization has moved UV tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category. The risk of skin cancer increases by 75 percent when people begin using tanning beds prior to age 30.
3. Wear protective clothing. Wearing sun protective clothing with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating which measures the amount of UV radiation that the fabric blocks as an added layer of defense. Clothing is the single most effective form of sun protection. A plain white shirt only has UPF 3. Adding colorless dye like Rit Sun Guard to laundry can coat the fibers, giving regular clothes UPF 30.
4. Choose your SPF wisely. Wear sunscreen. The newest sunscreens promise SPF 50 or higher, but the American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30. SPF measures the length of time you can stay in the sun before getting pink, and 30 minutes is a good rule of thumb. It is also a good idea to apply 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every four hours.
5. Check for moles often. If you have significant past sun exposure or a family history of skin cancer, it’s a good idea to have an annual skin examination by a dermatologist. Signs that a mole may be melanoma (ABCDEs):
o Asymmetrical: Is the mole strangely shaped?
o Border: Does the mole have irregular borders?
o Color: Does the mole have multiple colors?
o Diameter: Is the mole larger than a pencil eraser?
o Evolving: Is the mole changing in size, shape or color?
To speak with Friedman, please contact Katie Wooldridge, The Methodist Hospital System, at 832.667.5849