Fun in sun can carry a high price: skin cancer
With more than five million diagnosed cases each year, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the nation.
Since skin cancer most often develops on parts of the body exposed to sun, and the season people spend the most time outside is here, commonsense precautions are a good idea.
“All that sun exposure really has a cost,” said Hillsboro physician Autumn Weir.
The best way to ward off skin cancer is to use sunscreen with an SPF factor of 50, she said.
While some sunscreens have higher SPF factors, they aren’t much more effective, she said.
Putting on sunscreen before spending time outside isn’t the only consideration, though.
“I find the most frequently overlooked thing is reapplying sunscreen,” she said.
She recommends people read the bottle to see how often it should be reapplied.
Weir said caution should be taken when using spray sunscreen, especially on children, so they do not breathe in the spray.
“If it’s sprayed on and you jump right in the pool, it is likely to wash right off,” she said. “Most of them are designed to be lightly rubbed in.”
She recommends infants be kept out of direct sun. They can be dressed in protective clothing including a hat, be kept under an umbrella, or other precautions can be used, but most sunscreens are not safe for babies.
Sun exposure builds up over time, especially exposure under the age of 18, Weir said.
If a sunburn does happen, it’s important to take care of it because it is skin damage.
Soothing solutions containing ingredients such as aloe are helpful.
Solutions containing lidocaine also are helpful, but should be avoided for kids younger than 12.
If a sunburn blisters, it’s a good idea to be checked by a doctor.
“Especially if you have a sunburn and are sick, it’s important to see the doctor” she said.
Physicians often see skin cancer on the tips of men’s ears later in life. That’s a place people don’t often think to use sunscreen.
“The other thing is wearing a hat and protecting the ears and the tops of the head,” she said.
She admits she hasn’t found a good sunscreen that works on the top of the head.
If you do get a sunburn, keep it out of the sun, she said.
Physicians often see skin cancer develop when the patient is in his or her 40s. Odds increase for patients in their 60s.
Melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, is sometimes found in patients in their 20s.
Tanning beds are very unsafe, Weir said.
“You get more intense exposure to ultraviolet light in a tanning bed,” she said.
Self-tanning solutions have been improved and are less likely to leave the user looking blotchy.
Salons often sell good tanning solution.
Eyes are not immune to sunburn, she said.
A dry, grainy feeling to the eyes after a long day in the sun is a symptom of sunburn.
She advises people to pay attention to their skin.
“If you see something that looks suspicious on your skin, then get it checked out,” she said.
Last modified May 25, 2022