By Dr Dwayne Lett

With every activity that takes you outside the Plastics and Reconstruction Surgeons want to heighten your awareness that sun damage to your skin is cumulative and you will need to be careful! Time spent outside soaking up the rays at any time of the year can have long-lasting implications for your health. It is important to take precautions to protect your skin from ultraviolet damage.

The Dangers of Skin Cancer

The Surgeon General has declared skin cancer a major public health problem. It is the most common type of cancer in the United States and its incidence is increasing by about 1% per year. Although there are genetic predisposing factors, ultraviolet radiation exposure is the primary contributing initiator of the disease. Only 70% of adults and 10% of teens declare routine practice of sun protection behaviors. There are some misconceptions about tanning and skin cancer. A “base”tan is not a “safe” tan and indoor tanning is not safer than outdoor exposure. Prevention remains an integral part of management.

Protective behaviors include frequently seeking shade, wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, and darker colors when possible. Dry clothes are more protective than wet. Please note that a T-shirt alone without sunscreen may have an SPF of less than 15. It is important to have sunscreen with SPF greater than 15. One should apply to face and body daily 30 minutes prior to going outside. Reapply every two hours during exposure.

Take Care of Your Skin

Skin health is essential as well. Exfoliate frequently. Microdermabrasion and chemical peels help keep skin appearing fresh and healthy. Eat healthy with portions of fruits and vegetables containing natural antioxidants.

Regularly check the skin for changes. Moles or defects of the skin that change or grow or wounds that do not heal are particularly worrisome. One should perform a thorough skin exam monthly and have a trained professional perform an exam yearly.

Melanoma is a particularly aggressive form of skin cancer. Remember the alphabet when examining moles.

  • Asymmetry: an irregularly shaped mole.
  • Borders: the borders/edges of the mole are uneven.
  • Color: the mole is multi-colored.
  • Diameter: the mole is larger in diameter than 6mm (about the width of a pencil eraser).
  • Evolving: the mole has changed over time.
  • Firm: the mole is more firm than the surrounding tissue and doesn’t flatten when compressed.
  • Growth: the mole is progressively larger.

If you detect any of the above changes, please contact a medical professional.

Resources for Skin Cancer

To learn more about skin cancer basics, visit the Skin Cancer website or the Center for Disease Control. The app UMSkincheck (Itunes) provides automatic reminders, instructions for self exam and examples of concerning lesions for immediate comparison.

If you need cosmetic or plastic surgery, visit our Cosmetic and Skin Surgery Center to learn about our providers and the procedures they offer.

Remember this summer – have fun but be safe!


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