Archive for April, 2011
As an ultramarathon runner who spends a lot of time outside, 50k American Record Holder Josh Cox knows that along with his time in the sun comes the serious risk of skin cancer caused by the sun’s damaging UV rays. That’s why he takes action to protect his skin before every run.
In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May and the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Save Your Skin Campaign Josh shares a few steps you can take to protect your skin from the sun — this summer and all year round.
On a beautiful sunny day, there’s nothing like being outside and having fun, whether it’s going for a bike ride, taking the kids to the park or heading out for a walk or run. But along with fun in the sun comes serious health risks, including skin cancer and premature aging resulting from exposure to the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays (both UVA and UVB). Although skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis, it is also the most preventable cancer if you take the proper steps to reduce your risk.
By following these 7 simple tips below, you can enjoy your time outside while protecting your skin from the sun.
- Avoid the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm. This is when the sun’s UV rays are the most harmful.
- Always use sunscreen and lip balm with UVA and UVB protection with SPF 30 or more, even on cloudy days, since UV rays can pass through clouds.
- Always apply an ounce of sunscreen—about a palm full—at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun. This will allow the sunscreen to fully bind to your skin.
- Be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours and even more frequently if you are sweating heavily or if you go for a swim.
- Wear sunglasses that have been treated to absorb UV radiation, a wide brim hat and clothing made of tightly woven material with long sleeves.
- Protect children from the sun. Childhood sunburns may increase the risk of melanoma later in life.
- Don’t use sun lamps, tanning beds or artificial lights. Any tan is your skin’s response to damaging UV rays which can cause skin cancer.
For more on how to protect your skin from the sun, please watch this video.
Important note about Vitamin D: Recent research on the benefits of vitamin D (made by the skin from sunlight) indicates that just a brief exposure of your face, arms and hands to the sun is sufficient—about 15 minutes a day, three days per week. Talk to your health care professional about Vitamin D and your health.
Even one severe sunburn during childhood or teenage years can increase the risk of skin cancer later so it is important to protect your children’s skin. Children get nearly a quarter of their lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18. Protecting the skin during the first 18 years of life can reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer by up to 78%.
- During the summer, do not let children go outdoors without sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 30 or higher — even on cloudy days.
- Reapply the sunscreen often, particularly if they go in water.
- Avoid exposing your children to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Keep babies, 6 months or younger, out of the sun. Their skin is too sensitive.
It’s important to check your skin for suspicious moles once a month and report anything unusual to your health care professional. Remember the ABCDE rule: Asymmetry (one half of the mole doesn’t match the other), Border irregularity, Color that is not uniform, Diameter greater than 6 mm — (about the size of a pencil eraser), and Evolving size, shape or color.
If you notice any CHANGE in size, shape or elevation of a mole, or experience any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting, see your health care professional promptly.
For more about the ABCDEs of melanoma and how to conduct a self-exam for skin cancer, please watch this video.
An important part of skin cancer prevention is conducting a self-exam at home at least once a month. The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a shower or bath. You should check your skin in a well-lit room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. Begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles and blemishes are and what they usually look and feel like. Check for anything new, especially a change in the size, shape, texture, or color of a mole. Also keep a look-out for sores that do not heal.
Check yourself from head to toe:
- Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
- Bend your elbows and look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides) and upper arms.
- Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Also look between the buttocks and around the genital area.
- Sit and closely examine your feet, including the toenails, the soles and the spaces between the toes.
- Examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth and ears–front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
- Look at your neck, ears and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move hair to get a better look. You can also ask a relative or friend to check through your hair because this is difficult to do yourself.
It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away.
Promptly show your doctor any:
- Suspicious skin area
- Non-healing sore
- Change in a mole or freckle
For more on how to conduct a self-exam for skin cancer, please watch this video.
Redness, dark spots, raccoon-like eye circles and uneven skin coloring are all examples of what sun damage can look like on your face and body—but sometimes it might not be quite as noticeable. It’s important to be educated about the various ways sun damage can appear on your skin so you can better protect yourself and know when to consult your health care physician.
Below are a number of photos featuring the different types of sun damage that can occur:
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Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis, and it’s the most preventable cancer. This year, an estimated 68,000 people will be dianosed with melanoma–the most dangerous type of skin cancer–and nearly12,o00 will die of the disease. Every year, as many as two million people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer.
That’s why it’s so important to have your health care professional examine your skin once a year, especially after age 50. Also, be sure to conduct a self-exam from head to toe at home at least once a month and report any suspicious skin area, non-healing sore or change in a mole or freckle to your physician.