Staying Safe in the Summer Sun

Posted by GPWHC on 30 May 2018

Summer has arrived! For many of us that means heading to sunny spots like the beach, lake or pool. It’s the perfect time to enjoy outdoor time with family and friends, but, before you venture out, it’s important to protect yourself from the sun and be informed about skin cancer.

Many of us love the bronze glow the sun gives our skin, but beware, too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation (tanning beds and sunshine) causes permanent damage to our skin. Over the years this can lead to the rapid growth of abnormal cells resulting in a malignant tumor, or skin cancer.

The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. It begins in the deepest layer of the skin, the epidermis. This type of skin cancer typically develops on parts of the skin that get the most sun exposure; the head, neck, face and the back of your hands.  Basal cell carcinoma grows slowly, however treatment is extremely important since it can grow deep within the skin destroying skin, tissue and even bone.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, squamous cell cancer is the second most common form of skin cancer. People with squamous cell cancer often develop red, scaly patches, open sores, or warts on their skin. Squamous cell carcinoma is the result of years and years of intense sun exposure. Think back to all the summers at the beach without any sunscreen and getting sunburned. Squamous cell carcinoma isn’t usually life-threatening, but can certainly become dangerous if left untreated.

The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanoma originates in the pigment producing cells within the basal layer of your skin. Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin. For men it’s common to affect the chest and back, whereas in women, the legs are the most common site. When detected early, melanoma is typically curable, however, if it goes undetected, it can spread to other parts of the body and become more difficult to treat and cure.

It’s recommended that you perform a self-examination of your skin each month to look for any new or changing moles, freckles or bumps. Stand in front of a full length mirror and examine the front and back of your body, also, raise your arms and look at your sides again. Bend your elbows and be sure to check your hands, palms and underarms. Check your legs, feet and between your toes as well. Using a hand held mirror examine your face, neck, scalp and ears. Finally, check your lower and upper back and buttocks using a hand held mirror.

Keep in mind the ABCDE rule of skin cancer which provides an easy way to recognize moles and growths. A – Asymmetry. A normal mole will be completely symmetrical; if you drew a line through it, each half would be the same. A suspicious mole will not look the same on both sides. B – Border. A mole with jagged or blurry edges should be checked. C – Color. Moles that are more than one color (brown, red and/or black) should be evaluated. Normal moles are one color. D – Diameter. Rule of thumb is if a spot is larger than a pencil eraser, or about ¼ inch, it should be examined. Lastly, E – Elevation/Evolving. If a mole is raised above the surface, or has an uneven surface and looks different from the last time you checked, or has changed in color, get it checked out.

Protect your skin! Sun exposure at any age can cause skin cancer. Those who burn easily, spend a lot of time outdoors, have numerous moles and/or freckles, are fair-skinned, or have light colored hair (blond, red or light brown) should be especially careful of the sun’s harmful rays. If possible, avoid the sun, or stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest, between 10 am – 4 pm.

Wear sunscreen! Daily use of a broad-spectrum (ultra violet A&B) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 should be is recommended for the areas of skin that are most frequently exposed to the sun (face, neck, ears and backs of hands). Sunscreens provide protection by absorbing, reflecting or scattering the sun's rays. Sunscreens are rated according to their effectiveness by the sun protection factor (SPF). A product's SPF number tells you how long the product will protect you before you need to reapply, and how long you can stay in the sun without burning. For example, you may normally burn in 20 minutes. If you apply an SPF 15 sunscreen, you'll be protected for about 300 minutes, or five hours (SPF 15 x 20 minutes = 300 minutes). Always reapply after swimming or sweating as sunscreen will become less effective. Sunscreen should be used on infants over 6 months old. Newborns should be protected from sun exposure, keeping them indoors during peak hours, or in the shade.

Cover up while outdoors, and be sure your little ones are in the shade, or covered up as well. Protective clothing such as lightweight long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses should also be used. Be sure to wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection – sun exposure can cause damage to the eyes as well.

Start your summer off with a piece of mind by scheduling a visit to your dermatologist for a thorough skin check. Also, be sure to monitor your own skin, by doing a monthly skin check - taking note of any new moles, freckles or spots that look unusual or have changed. Our skin is the largest organ in the body – show it some love and protect it, it has to last a lifetime!

Past Posts

FAQ’s About PAP’s
Why Prenatal Care Is Important for You and Your Baby
UTI’s – Are You at Risk?
Staying Safe in the Summer Sun
Do I have the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
Heart Health – Aging with grace and strength
HPV & Cervical Cancer
Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Biotin (Vitamin B7) - May Interfere with Lab Tests
Overactive Bladder & Menopause
Breastfeeding Benefits for Moms
Adjusting to Life with a Newborn
Zika Virus – 2017 Update
What Are My Birth Control Options?
Date Rape – It’s Not Your Fault
Menopause: Symptoms & Solutions
Endometriosis – What Is It & What Are Your Options?
A Day In the Life Of An Anorexic
I had an abnormal pap smear what does this mean?
What is a hysterectomy?
Osteoporosis-Big word, bigger problem
End of the Year
Your Teen's Sex Life
It's a difficult topic-Sexual assault
After the baby
Stress and your health
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month
September Cancer Awareness Month
What is menopause?
Teen Eating Disorders


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