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Shedding light on melanoma
Each spring and summer, Americans look forward to opportunities to put on shorts or swimsuits and soak up the sunrays. But fun in the sun does bring with it the risk of skin cancer.
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers have been linked to long-term cumulative sun exposure – such as the kind to which farmers and sailors are exposed. Melanoma, the most serious of skin cancers, has been linked to intense, intermittent exposure to the sun’s rays – such as a painful sunburn from a day at the pool.
“Often, skin cancer develops and grows without displaying any obvious symptoms, so patients do not realize the lesion is something to be worried about,” says Ashton Youngers, a physician assistant with Ascension Medical Group Via Christi who specializes in dermatology and sees patients at the East 21st and Derby locations.
She and her physician colleagues offer these tips for preventing skin cancer:
• Know your history. A history of one or more severe, blistering sunburns as a child or teenager can increase your risk of melanoma as an adult.
• Avoid midday sun when its rays are the strongest. For most places, this is between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Because the sun's rays are strongest during this period, try to schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even when the sky is cloudy. You absorb UV radiation year-round, and clouds offer little protection from damaging rays.
• Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Use a generous amount of sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips, the tips of your ears, and the backs of your hands and neck. Apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it frequently while you're exposed to the sun. Be sure to reapply it after swimming or exercising.
• Wear protective clothing. Sunscreens don't provide complete protection from UV rays, so wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor does. Don't forget sunglasses. Look for those that block both types of UV radiation - UVA and UVB rays.
• Don’t use tanning beds. Tanning beds emit UV radiation, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.
• Become familiar with your skin so that you'll notice changes. Examine your skin so that you become familiar with what your skin normally looks like. This way, you may be more likely to notice any skin changes. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk, and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs, and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. If you notice anything unusual, point it out to your healthcare provider at your next appointment.
To schedule an appointment with Ashton Youngers, call 316-609-4558.
Ashton Youngers, PA for Ascension Medical Group Via Christi, gives tips to avoid skin cancer and sun damage this summer