Every year, more Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cases of cancer combined. While skin cancers sometimes appear without an obvious cause, many result from exposure to sunlight and the cumulative effects that ultraviolet (UV) radiation has on your skin. UV light is a confirmed carcinogen, an agent known to cause cancer.
The good news is that many skin cancers can be detected early and even before they’re actively cancerous. Early detection and treatment generally leads to successful outcomes. While you can’t do anything now about previous UV exposure, you can prevent adding to your dose load with awareness and minor lifestyle changes.
Along with regular skin cancer screenings with a certified dermatologist like Jennifer Baron, MD, FAAD, FACMS, you can significantly lower your risk of dangerous tumors. Here are some tips to consider before the UV-intense summer season arrives with full force.
UV rays can’t affect your skin if they never reach it. Monitor UV levels regularly through daily media weather reports and, whenever possible, stay indoors during the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, the time when ultraviolet emissions are the strongest. If you are outside, stay in the shade whenever possible, as well as practicing the other tips listed here. UV light can penetrate cloud cover, so avoidance is just as important on overcast days.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. Even water resistant products need reapplication after you have a swim, and all sunscreens have a two-hour window of protection; and they also have best-before dates. Discard sunscreens over three years old.
You can boost your personal SPF by using clothing strategically. A hat can become a sun shield, protecting your ears, scalp, face, and neck, but choose a broad brim, rather than a cap with front protection only. You can buy clothing that has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) that absorbs UV before it hits your skin. Otherwise, darker colors absorb UV before it reaches your skin, while light and shiny fabrics reflect UV away from your body. Don’t forget the sunglasses either. Like your skin, your eyes can be damaged by UV.
Some medications increase your sensitivity to sunlight. These include common over-the-counter products like antihistamines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications. Some antibiotics have a similar effect, as do certain antipsychotics, antidepressants, and oral diabetes medications. Check with your pharmacist to determine if you need to take extra care in the sun due to any drugs you’re regularly taking.
To learn more about protecting your skin, or to schedule a skin cancer screening, call Jennifer A. Baron, MD, FAAD, FACMS at 408-329-6056 at her San Jose office. With knowledge, preparation, and diligence, you can stay safe from the effects of skin cancer while still enjoying all the best of the summer sun.