As spring begins, it is important to remember to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. These UV rays are the primary cause of skin cancer, which is the most common cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Not only will this cautionary behavior help to prevent skin cancer and other skin-related diseases, but it will also help prevent premature aging of the skin.
There are three types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas – the most serious being melanomas. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common and less likely to spread to other parts of the body to become life threatening. Melanomas develop from melanocytes, which are the cells that cause your skin to become a brown color. Melanocytes can also form benign moles found all over the body. Moles, freckles, and other skin changes may come as a result from sun exposure and should be monitored regularly.
Melanomas are not as common as basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas but are more serious. However, all three are almost always treatable if caught early. When checking moles, you should consider following the ABCDE rule: A is for Asymmetry (one half of the mole is not like the other side); B is for Border (the edges are irregular or blurred); C is for Color (the color is not
the same all over); D is for Diameter (the spot is larger than 6 mm or sometimes smaller); E is for Evolving (the mole is changing in size, shape, or color).
You should get regular skin exams with your doctor to ensure that your skin changes are normal.
There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA rays age skin, can damage skin cells’ DNA, and are linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles. UVB rays are slightly stronger than UVA rays, can damage skin cells’ DNA and cause sunburns. UVC rays are the strongest but do not pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and are not in sunlight.
UVA and UVB rays are both linked to skin cancer.
Factors that can also affect your risk of UV light damage include:
• Had skin cancer before
• Have a family history of skin cancer
• Have many moles, irregular moles or large moles
• Have freckles and burn before tanning
• Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red or light brown hair
• Live or vacation at high altitudes
• Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
• Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
• Spend a lot of time outdoors
• Have certain autoimmune diseases
• Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer
• Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system
• Have had an organ transplant
• Take medicines that suppress your immune system
• Take medicines that make you more sensitive to sunlight
Helpful tips to protect your skin:
• Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and continue to reapply the longer you are exposed to the sun (at least every 2 hours)
• Wear clothing that covers your skin (long sleeve shirt, pants)
• Wear sunglasses and a hat
• Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps
• Get regular skin exams and check your own skin
Dr. Ryan Kissane is a family medicine physician at Brookwood Baptist Health, Primary & Specialty Care Talladega. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from Florida State University and his medical degree from St. George’s University. He served as chief resident at Jamaica Hospital in New York City, which is an affiliate hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Reach him at (256) 362-3636 or visit http://bit.ly/FindADocBBH