By Kevin L. Dawson, MD
With summer in full swing it’s a great reminder to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun. According to the EPA, skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S.; and melanoma has the third fastest rising death rate among cancers in Hawaii. All skin types are at risk, so here’s what you need to know to reduce your risk:
What to wear in the sun:
- Wide-brimmed hat
- UV-blocking sunglasses
- Sun shirt
- Rash guard
- Clothes that cover your arms and legs.
- There’s no significant difference in UV protection with types of clothing materials. Thicker is better, but thin material is adequate protection for most people.
When out in the sun:
- Seek shade, especially during peak sun hours from 10 am – 3 pm.
- Use sunscreen. Choose a product that is SPF 30 or greater with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection. Make sure it is water resistant, if swimming or exercising.
The proper way to use sunscreen:
- Apply everywhere.
- Re-apply every 2 hours or whenever you get wet.
- Check the expiration date.
- Apply liberally – you need at least 1 ounce to cover your body!
- Spray sunscreens should appear wet on your skin after application.
Some people say that sunscreens cause cancer, or are dangerous. Are sunscreens safe? Yes.
- Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.
- Going unprotected is much more of a health risk than ANY sunscreen.
- Most safety concerns are unfounded, but chemical sunscreens are easy to avoid.
- Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are ALWAYS safe alternatives.
Detecting skin cancer – what should you look for on your skin?
- Dark spots with the ABCDE signs of melanoma:
- A = asymmetry
- B = border (irregular)
- C = color (irregular)
- D = diameter (pea-sized or larger)
- E = evolution (recent changes or growth)
- Any spot that frequently bleeds or scabs.
- Any wound that doesn’t heal.
- Get a regular screening by your doctor
Dr. Kevin Dawson is the Chief of Dermatology at The Queen’s Medical Center.