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Summer’s here: Time to protect your skin from sun and keep regular watch for skin cancer

Friday, June 1 is the start of meteorological summer, which is a great reminder to make sure you have enough sunscreen on hand and to remember to check your body for skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society says the top cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, rays from the sun or other sources like tanning beds.

To protect yourself from the sun, the ACS recommends wearing clothing and a wide-brim hat to protect as much skin as possible; using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher, and to reapply every two hours, as well as after swimming or sweating; staying in the shade if possible; and avoiding tanning beds and sunlamps.

But it’s also important to be careful when using sunscreens on children.

Brenda Goodman of WebMD reports on a 14-month-old child who is recovering from a “painful, blistering rash that spread over her cheeks and nose, right where her mom had spread a palmful of Banana Boat Kids Free spray sunscreen.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating the case, and told WebMD that it is aware of three other Canadian children who had reactions to the same product.

Dr. Alok Vij, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told WebMD that he thought the reaction was something called a photoallergy, which happens when the sunlight combines with a chemical to cause a chemical reaction.

His advice to parents includes: Keep kids out of the sun during the brightest parts of the day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; use sun-protective clothing; use mineral-based sunscreens, like those with zinc or titanium; and avoid spray sunscreens. 

The American Academy of Dermatology reports that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

The doctors at University of Louisville Physicians – Surgical Oncology, in a U of L news release, recommends regular skin self-exams after a shower or bath. They note that it’s important to learn where your birthmarks, moles, and blemishes are located and to take note of how they usually look and feel. Family members can examine areas that are hard for an individual to see.

“Using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror, check for anything new such as a mole that looks abnormal, a change in size, shape, color or texture of a mole or a sore that doesn’t heal,” the doctor’s advice. “Check yourself from head to toe, including all areas and crevices of the skin.”

They also offer these “ABCDE” tips to help you remember what to watch for:

Asymmetry – The shape of one half does not match the other.

Border – The edges are often jagged, uneven, distorted or atypical in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.

Color – The color is uneven. Shades of black, brown and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink or blue also may be seen.

Diameter – There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil (1/4 inch or 5 mm).

Evolution – Anything that changes over time.

It is important to call a dermatologist if you find one of these suspicious characteristics.

And just because you have dark skin doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check yourself. A 2016 American Academy of Dermatology study, “Racial Disparities in Melanoma Survival,” found that while melanoma incidence is higher in whites, death rates are relatively higher among people of color.

 “Far too often, black, Hispanic, and Asian patients with melanoma cancer tell us they believed that melanoma was only a danger for sun-seeking whites,” says the study report. “But anyone – regardless of skin color – may develop melanoma, in both sun-exposed and sun-protected sites. Not noticing or ignoring a new or changing mole in a sun-protected site can be fatal.”

From Kentucky Health News

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