Conducting self-examinations, using sun block and limiting exposure lessens risk
Contact: Todd Harper
Phone: (317) 630-7808
Pager: (317) 310-5972
Indianapolis, May 24, 2010 – Prolonged sun exposure this spring and summer could have far-reaching consequences that go beyond just the irritation of painful, sunburned skin.
But, by taking some simple steps, people who are going to be outside for extended periods can greatly reduce the risk of skin damage. Some of the precautions doctors recommend include conducting monthly self-examinations, reapplying sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater every two hours and forgoing sunbathing or trips to the tanning bed.
Affecting more people in the United States than any other form of cancer, skin cancer is one of the only known cancers that can be greatly reduced or prevented by avoiding certain environmental factors, said Dr. Lawrence Mark, dermatology service chief at Wishard Health Services and assistant professor of Dermatology at the IU School of Medicine. He said ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause severe aging effects and cellular damage to sun-exposed skin.
Dr. Mark said it is especially important for people to take special precautions when out in the sun for extended periods. He said whether it is attending the Indianapolis 500, watching a little league baseball game on a Saturday afternoon or working outside in the yard, it is important people protect themselves from excess sun.
If a person is going to be in the sun, avoiding the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when ultraviolet-B rays are strongest is recommended. A baseball cap or hat, sunscreen applied 30 minutes prior to outside activities and protective clothing that covers exposed areas is advised.Dr. Mark said sunscreen should include titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to best combat the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and should be reapplied after getting out of water, even if the lotion is waterproof. He said the two most common areas susceptible to sun are the top of the ears and neck.
“Our general stance is sun avoidance is the best prevention,” Dr. Mark said, adding the time it takes for skin damage to develop as a result of sun exposure can vary from person to person.
In addition, Dr. Mark said it is important people know that spray-on tanning products offer no protection from the sun.
There are several types of skin cancer with the most common kind being basal cell carcinoma, representing more than 90 percent of all skin cancers in the United States. Basal cell also is the least serious form of skin cancer, and is characterized by growing slowly and rarely spreading. Malignant melanoma, on the other hand, is the most serious kind of skin cancer, and may often spread quickly. Dr. Mark said one in 75 cases of skin cancer is melanoma. Only a physician can determine whether or not a cancer exists and the type.
When conducting monthly self-examinations, a person should look closely for what dermatologists term the A-B-C-Ds, standing for asymmetric, border, color and diameter. Doctors stress any skin marks that are asymmetric, have an irregular border, recently changed in color or increased in diameter should be examined more closely. Dr. Mark suggests if someone has a concern about skin health, he or she should make an appointment to see a primary care physician or dermatologist.
For more information about finding a primary care physician or dermatologist, please call Health Connection at Wishard at (317) 655-2255.