Skin Check: Preparing For Summer

May 1, 2017

This summer, as you prepare to head to the beach, the park, or to garden, don’t forget to use sunscreen – and reapply.

Dr. Sharon Christie, a Middlesex Hospital dermatologist, stresses that the use of sunscreen can help save lives. Sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer, which most often develops when skin is exposed to the sun.

There are three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Like with most other cancers, the best outcomes happen when the cancer is caught early.

You can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer by limiting, or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet radiation – the sun! This means using sunscreen and wearing lightweight clothing during the summer months.

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Skin cancer can affect everyone and of all skin tones, including those with darker skin, and it can appear both in areas normally exposed to the sun, such as your arms or face, and areas that are not, such as beneath your toe nails. So, no matter who you are, take the time to protect yourself, Christie says.

Dr. Christie recommends sunblock that is broad spectrum. Look for sunblock that protects against UVA and UVB rays and is SPF 30 or greater, and apply it every two hours when outdoors.

Dr. Christie also says it is smart to wear hats when out in the sun to protect your scalp, and stay away from tanning – both on the beach and in a tanning booth. In doing so, you knowingly expose yourself to harmful ultraviolet radiation.

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Throughout the year – not just summer, it is also important to check your skin for any changes. In addition to scheduling an annual visit with your dermatologist, you should regularly check your own skin, or have a loved one check it for you. Look for any pearly or waxy bumps and flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesions. These can be signs of basal cell carcinoma. Firm, red nodules, or flat lesions with a scaly, crusted surface, can indicate squamous cell carcinoma.

Signs of melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, include a change in the color, size, or shape of a mole. Small lesions with irregular borders or lesions that contain different colors may also be of concern.

What are some other summer skin tips?
In general, you should apply sunblock to the face and any exposed skin every morning throughout the year – not just in the summer. This will protect against basal cell carcinomas, which most often develops on the face from chronic low-grade sun exposure through car windows.

You should also see your doctor to check your vitamin D level once a year if you are concerned about a vitamin D deficiency.

Tanning booths do not provide UVB rays, the rays that help the skin produce vitamin D. Therefore, Dr. Christie does not recommend the use of tanning booths in general and certainly not as a way to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

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