Now that it’s Spring and Summer is just around the corner, we should all be concerned about sun exposure and skin cancer.
About 1.3 million people are diagnosed with various forms of skin cancer in the United States every year. One of the mostly deadly forms of skin cancer is melanoma. There were 68,130 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States during 2010 and about 8,700 people died from the disease (up from about 47,700 new cases diagnosed in 2000 and about 7,700 deaths). There is very little that can help prolong the life of people with late-stage melanoma (on March 25, 2011, the FDA approved the new drug Yervoy to treat such patients, which is the first therapy approved by the FDA that clearly demonstrated that patients with metastatic melanoma lived longer by taking the therapy).
Many cases of melanoma are related to repeated exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Certain products such as antibiotics, birth control, benzoyl peroxide, and cosmetics containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can increase the sensitivity of the skin and eyes to UV rays.
To help protect yourself from overexposure to UV rays from the sun and artificial sources, try to avoid the sun’s strongest rays during the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (an easy test: the sun’s rays are strongest when your shadow on the ground is shorter than you). Water, snow, and sand reflect sunlight and therefore add to your exposure to sunlight. Consistent use of sunglasses (including children!) that provide 100% UV protection (read the label) is a must. Apply a liberal amount of sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater (30 or greater if fair skin) to unprotected skin (don’t forget the top of your feet) 30 minutes before sun exposure (so that it is absorbed into the skin) and reapply every 1.5 to 2 hours, even on cloudy days (don’t forget to apply on cloudy days) , and after swimming or sweating (even if the product states that it is waterproof). A wide brim hat that protects the head, neck, and shoulders and protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants with tightly woven fabric should be worn.
Check your skin (and have a loved one check those areas that you cannot check closely such as your back and head) for unusual moles or changes in moles, scaly patches, or sores with persistent bleeding or that do not heal. See a dermatologist promptly if you observe any of these or other changes or have skin concerns (delay in diagnosis and treatment can be dangerous or deadly).
Seek a second opinion if you still have concerns — you only have one body and you only get one life to live!
Please see our blog for other topics of interest.