Fun in the sun is on most of our minds as the summer season heats up. But as with most things, some safety precautions should be taken when going outside – especially if you’ll be at the beach or pool for extended periods of time, or even if you’re at home gardening or mowing the lawn.
Skin cancer is way more common than you might think. Recently Hugh Jackman revealed he had a pair of biopsies for basal cell carcinoma. Though they turned out to be negative, his actions were a particularly good idea in the X-Men actor’s case, as he has received treatment for basal cell carcinoma several times, including having skin cancer removed from his nose in 2013.
In addition, Khloe Kardashian shared that she had a melanoma on her face, which was then removed. Again, she had had previous experience in this area, having had surgery years before to remove a melanoma from her back.
Such reports should be sobering for all of us. Many of the patients I see have had significant sun exposure. Whether that’s from being active outside at the beach, or the use of tanning beds, which used to be quite common. To be safe, every adult should be seeing a board-certified dermatologist yearly for a comprehensive skin exam.
If your dermatologist finds anything of concern, they may refer you to me for surgical treatment. I treat a dozen patients a week in the office for skin cancer excisions. This is usually a quick in-office procedure, and you can get back to your normal activities within a day.
Here are my top 5 tips for keeping your skin healthy:
Wear sunscreen (SPF 30+ year-round). SPF (sun protection formula) is used to ascertain how much solar energy (UV radiation) is required to produce sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin relative to the amount of solar energy needed to produce sunburn on unprotected skin. The higher the SPF, the more sunburn protection is created. An SPF below 15 provides little protection; 15 to 29 equals medium protection; 30 to 49 gives you high protection; and 50 and above results in very high protection.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothing with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). Similar to SPF, UPF is the rating system used to determine a clothing item’s effectiveness at filtering both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Both rays can factor into developing sunburn as well as skin cancers. Again, the higher the UPF number, the more protection you will receive.
Inspect any moles regularly for changes in their size, shape, color, or feel; such alterations may be indicative of melanoma. These changes can occur in an existing mole, or melanoma may appear as a new or unusual-looking mole. Cancer.net recommends using the “ABCDE” rule when it comes to melanoma warning signs:
- Asymmetry. The shape of one-half of the mole does not match the other.
- Border. The edges are ragged, notched, uneven, or blurred.
- Color. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, or blue may also be seen.
- Diameter. The diameter is usually larger than ¼ of an inch, or has grown in size.
- Evolving. The size, shape, color, or feel are advancing.
Look for “ugly ducklings” – moles that stand out from the others. Most of these will appear similar to each other, but if you have one (or more) that is suspiciously different in appearance, you should seek the advice of a dermatologist sooner rather than later.
See your dermatologist yearly.
By all means, enjoy your time outside in the sun this summer. But please keep your skin protected!