Skin cancer is the most common cancer. It is increasing in incidence because of our outdoor life style and failure to protect from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. So, what can you do to prevent getting skin cancer?
Naples friend Dr. Michael Fenster, retired dermatologist, provided the following information.
Damage to the skin and skin cancer formation is due to exposure to ultraviolet rays, predominantly from the sun, but also from indoor tanning parlors. Therefore, it is necessary to provide protection from this damaging radiation. This can be accomplished in several ways:
- Staying indoors during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest
- Wearing Protective Clothing
- Applying Sunscreens
While it is impractical to stay inside all day long, the proper clothing is protective of UV radiation and the tighter the weave of the clothing the greater the protection. Clothing offers greater protection than sunscreens and the more the body is covered, like with long sleeves, the greater the protection.
Specific sun protective clothing is now available which offers even greater protection than standard clothing. One brand of this type of clothing is “Coolbar.”
Hats are an essential factor in UV protection. Solid hats, without air holes offer the best protection. Having a flap extending from the back of the hat and covering the nape of the neck offers even greater protection.
Wearing a visor, rather than a full cap, offers no protection to the top of the head, particularly in those with thinning of the hair or total baldness.
Sunscreens are an essential ingredient in protecting the skin from UV damage; and they are of two types – UVA and UVB. UVB sunscreens are rated by the SPF factor. The higher the SPF the longer one can stay in the sun before burning occurs.
An example of how the SPF works is the following: if one can stay outdoors for 10 minutes before getting redness from the exposure, then a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will allow the individual to remain outdoors for 300 minutes before redness occurs.
Ingredients in UVB sunscreens include oxybenzone and benzophenone. Ingredients in UVA sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Some sunscreens combine UVA and UVB ingredients, which is most protective.
Even sunscreens labeled as waterproof need to be reapplied after swimming or heavy sweating to provide the best protection. It is wise to reapply sunscreen after two hours in the sun, regardless of activity. Unfortunately, the ingredients in UVB sunscreens are causing lasting damage to coral reefs and their use is being prohibited in some tropical locations.
Seeing a Dermatologist
It is important to see a dermatologist annually to have a full body exam to check for skin cancer and pre-cancers. Immediate attention should be given to any sore that doesn’t heal quickly or any mole that enlarges, changes color, has multiple colors and/or an irregular border.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is not for diagnosis or therapy of any disease, but is for informational purposes only.
Any additional comments or questions?
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