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To Your Health: Skin safety

by University of Louisville Physicians last modified May 10, 2012 10:02 AM

As the days grow longer and warmer, kids will begin to spend more time outdoors – at the ball fields, chasing butterflies, making sandcastles and hanging out by the pool.

Yet, too much sun exposure without proper protection can bring an end to any fun in the sun.

Despite the fact that sun tanning and burning increases skin cancer risks, most Americans don’t protect themselves or their kids from the sun’s damaging rays. As a result, skin cancer is the most common cancer, and the incidence of melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – is on the rise. However, if detected early, skin cancer usually can be cured.

Common skin cancer risk factors include: fair complexion and light hair, a lot of moles and blistering sunburns.

Many people who get melanoma will have had blistering sunburns in their teenage years, which is why it is important to protect your kids and teens. Sun exposure is the strongest risk factor and the one you can prevent by avoiding over-exposure to the sun.

“The ultraviolet radiation exposure of a tanning bed may be more risky than exposure to the sun,” said Kelly McMasters, University of Louisville Physicians surgical oncologist and renowned melanoma expert. “Like the sun, they expose you to ultraviolet radiation. You keep adding more and more damage to your skin – just more quickly.”

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Be alert to any kind of change in a mole. The four most common and most significant signs of change are a mole or skin area that:

  • Changes in size
  • Changes in color – typically gets darker
  • Itches
  • Bleeds

Other ways to help prevent skin cancer

  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and wear protective clothing. Re-apply sunscreen periodically.
  • Avoid the sun during peak hours (11 a.m.–3 p.m.)
  • Avoid tanning beds

If left untreated, skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body. That is why routine screenings are so important. If you or your child has any skin cancer signs or symptoms, see a dermatologist or your family doctor immediately. If you need help finding a physician, call 502-813-8585 or visit uoflphysicians.com.

(Editor’s Note: UofL Today reprints To Your Health from the “ULP Insider” newsletter. Read the entire May issue (opens as a PDF document).

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