Last month was officially skin cancer awareness month, but skin cancer awareness shouldn’t end in May. We also would like to take this opportunity to better explain recent FDA changes to sunscreen which you may have heard about in the news the last few days. With 35 years of experience treating skin conditions, the physicians and providers at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta know that, although most skin cancer is treatable, prevention is critical. Following a few easy tips can prevent skin cancer without compromising your warm weather fun.
- Apply appropriate sunscreen:
Select a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. If you plan to be in the sun for extended amounts of time, you will need to reapply. The length of time it takes for sunscreen to wear off is based on the SPF and can be determined by multiplying the SPF by 10 (SPF X 10=minutes of sun protection). For instance, one application of 30 SPF should last about 300 minutes. Beginning in the summer of 2012, the FDA will require all sunscreen manufacturers to be explicit in the type of UV protection their product actually provides: include a detailed list of ingredients and strengths on the product’s label. Additionally, manufacturers will only be permitted to market products with an SPF of 15- 80 because products outside of this range have been deemed scientifically less effective.
- Know when to stay inside:
The sun’s rays are most harmful during midday hours, so it’s better to avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. However, if you must go outside, be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen and wear protective clothing.
- Seek cover:
Find a shady spot to enjoy your summertime activities, but remember you can still be affected by the sun’s rays in the shade so still apply your 30 SPF sunscreen. Also, wear protective clothing for further defense, including sunglasses. People often forget that the eyes are also at risk for sun damage.
- Check it out:
It’s important to schedule a skin cancer body check every year to help diagnose skin cancer early. The trained eye of a dermatologist is more likely to catch precancerous or questionable lesions on your skin than you are, and skin cancer caught early is easier to treat.
There are three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Precancerous spots like actinic keratosis are usually removed using cryosurgery while the carcinomas are typically treatable with specialized surgical excision or Mohs surgery (sometimes topical chemotherapy ). Melanoma, the most serious of the skin cancer types, should be treated using wide excision to remove the affected tissue. Additionally, dermatologists may seek the input of an oncologist to treat melanoma patients to avoid the condition’s potentially serious complications, including death. We believe prevention is the best way to avoid skin cancer. Also, be sure to visit Dermatology Associates of Atlanta for your annual skin cancer body check. In fact, scheduling a skin cancer screening with Dr. Ashley Curtis would be a great way to get to know the newest member of our team. Skin cancer awareness should go beyond the month of May, especially during these blistering summer months.