WILL PINKSTON | The Sun
As the summer sets in across the area, it's important to remember sun protection in the form of various sunscreen or sun exposure monitoring products. Dermatologists recommend sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
With the hot, sunny weather arriving much sooner than predicted this year, it’s important to remember sun protection as the days grow longer.
As most schools already ended for the summer, seasonal activities start to shift into full swing and vacation time pulls many out of the office, protection from harmful sun rays seems to be pushed to the back of people’s minds.
While many times it just takes that first sunburn to pull people back into the mindset of skin protection, throughout May, Skin Cancer Awareness month seeks to educate people before they bake. In fact, skin cancer remains the most common type of cancer across the U.S., said Jamie Smith, cancer control specialist for Kentucky Cancer Program Purchase District.
Of the three types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma — basal cell remains the most prolific form, while melanoma remains the rarest, but most deadly. Unlike basal and squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma spreads down into the skin as opposed to across, making it harder to detect.
By the age of 40, Smith recommended people be screened once a year, but people at a higher risk like frequent tanners or people with a family history of skin cancer should be screened sooner for developing irregular spots.
Dr. Evelyn Jones, a dermatologist with WellSprings Dermatology, said for frequent indoor tanners with a direct history of melanoma, as soon as a mole develops, that person should be evaluated immediately.
“Anyone who has fair skin or multiple moles, or a personal history of skin cancer should be seen on a yearly basis,” Jones said.
Not all skin cancers appear the same, although usual tell-tale signs include growths appearing pale, red, black or blue in areas; feeling crusty, flat, scaly, smooth or firm; and changing in size, shape or color.
While skin cancer tops the list of most common forms of cancer, it also remains one of the most preventable through proper sun exposure etiquette. Especially during the most intense hours of ultraviolet light exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., it’s important to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen.
Recommended are sunscreens rated SPF 30 or higher that block both UVA and UVB rays. Apply a full ounce at a time or the equivalent of about two tablespoons, and reapply every hour to two hours, Jones said.
A useful tool to help monitor sun exposure comes in the form of a wristband, known as a UV SunSense band. When a person applies sunscreen, a small amount is rubbed into the bracelet and as the white band detects more harmful rays, the bracelet changes to blue to signify time for a reapplication. When too much sun reaches the band, it turns orange to tell the wearer to head indoors.
“They can help teach children to become accountable for their own skin, as well,” Jones said.
Call Will Pinkston, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.