By Norma Montiel, M.D.
This article is sponsored by Central Business Systems, visit their website at Central Business Systems
Summer is almost here and those warm sunny days are just around the corner. Just think about how wonderful it will be to step outside and feel those warm rays on your face and arms after such a long cold winter. But as you enjoy the sun, we ask that you take a moment and think about what you are doing. With sun exposure comes UVA and UVB rays which can promote skin cancer. Don’t risk your skin, especially the skin of your children with UV exposure. UV exposure has a cumulative effect; so protecting our children at an early age goes a long way toward preventing skin cancer.
There are multiple ways you can protect your skin:
Zinc and titanium oxide are physical blockers found in sunblock and can block both types of rays. Most sunblocks contain some form of chemical blocker that protects either one or the other type of UV (UVA OR UVB). SPF is a scale of how long your skin will be protected and only applies to UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the longer the cream will offer you protection. As the numbers go up, the difference in time of coverage is minimal at best. Use a minimum SPF of 15, applying it every hour, more so if you are sweating or in water. Be generous with the amounts you’re using, more is better, because it will minimize skipped areas and insure better coverage. Don’t forget your neck, ears and hands. Recent studies indicate that sunblock can reduce your risk of melanoma.
There are clothing that you can wear that contains sun protection with a UPF rating. A minimum of UPF 30 is required to have good coverage. A description of these can be found at: http://www.skincancer.org/sun-protective-clothing.html. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your tee shirt is covering your skin and therefore your protected. The average white tee shirt affords an SPF 8 and if it’s wet it goes down to an SPF 4. It’s like not wearing any sunblock at all.
Keeping your outdoor activities before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m., you can avoid the sun at it’s strongest. Use umbrellas if all else fails. Keep in mind that your windshield and rainy days do not protect you from the sun’s rays. UVA can penetrate glass and 80% of the sun’s rays reach you on cloudy or rainy days.
May is Melanoma month. Melanoma is a very treatable cancer if caught early. Be proactive; see your dermatologist for a full body screening. The criteria for melanoma is as simple as ABC:
2. Borders that are irregular.
3. Colors that are variable.
4. Diameter bigger than a pencil.
5. Evolving lesions are the criteria for melanoma.
If you have a mole unlike any other mole on your body, see your dermatologist for an evaluation. Keep in mind that melanoma can grow upwards like a bump as well as outward. A common myth is that African Americans do not get skin cancer. Melanoma more often occurs on the hand and feet in dark skinned individuals and as a result, often treated at very late stages. Self-examinations are recommended every month. If there’s something you’re not sure about, please see your dermatologist to have it checked.