Sunshine brings worries about skin cancer
With summer coming, it’s right to be concerned about avoiding the sun – and its consequences, especially if you are a cancer survivor.
And it’s right to be concerned about Moles, lesions etc. on your body as they might be a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored.
Doctors say we must pay attention in case these are early signs of skin cancer. Today it is the most common cancer around the world, which can rapidly develop into a worst-case scenario.
Don’t ignore warning signs
If you notice a new mark on your body, or you spot anything changing, itching, or bleeding on your skin. see a dermatologist. New, rapidly growing moles, especially ones that itch, bleed, or change colour, are often early warning signs and should be examined by a dermatologist.
Skin Protection Matters Year-Round
Now is the time to make sure you have all the sun protection lotions and potions you will need, for when summer appears. And bear in mind that many dermatologists say we should wear sun-protection year-round.
There are excellent skin care products available; just make sure the one you use ‘understands’ how your skin might behave post cancer treatment. I use Jennifer Young’s specially-tailored products.
N.B. A tip from skin consultants in your local store; who will tell you they wear a face cream with a minimum SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 all year round. Protecting skin from the sun is the best Anti-Ageing treatment there is.
Verywell, the official US website, says the sun emits two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB.2
- UVA rays primarily lead to premature skin aging
- UVB rays mainly cause sunburn.
- Ultimately, both types of rays play a role in skin cancer development.
What’s more, UV rays are reflected off both water and snow, making summer and winter activities harmful. Incidentally, if you sit out on concrete or by a whitewashed wall – the sun’s rays also reflect off these.
Noëlle Sherber, MD, FAAD, an American dermatologist, tells Verywell. “Ultraviolet rays are invisible and are present in every season, so sun protection isn’t something that you should reserve for a summer beach day. On a cloudy day, up to 80% of UV exposure remains as compared to a sunny day. UVA light can also pass through windows, even when you are indoors or in your car.”
And, Tanning Salons MUST be a No-no.
If you have spots on your body that meet certain criteria, you should see a dermatologist. Keep an eye on any lesions and monitor the ABCDE characteristics.
- Asymmetry. Does one half of the area appear different from the other half?
- Border. Does it have a jagged border or irregular edges?
- Colour. Is there any variation in color within the area of concern?
- Diameter. Greater than 6mm across,
- Evolving. Has the spot changed from what it used to look like, or is it notably different from the surrounding skin?
A tan will fade, but sun’s effects on the skin are everlasting.
Recent formulas have improved dramatically, and streaking, unnatural orange tones and the smells are a thing of the past. Plus Self-tanning creams are a healthier alternative to tanning beds and natural sun exposure.
The active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), reacts with the skin’s dead skin cell layer to give a tan tint that lasts for several days. Since no UV rays are involved in developing your tan, self-tanners provide a safe alternative to lying in the sun.
However, self-tanners do not protect the skin from sun damage, so you will need to use a sun-protection product before you go into the sun.
- Avoid peak hours. Try to avoid going outdoors when the sun’s rays are at their strongest—between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If this is not possible, seek shade during these hours (and make sure you don’t catch reflecting rays – even under an umbrella.
- Wear protective clothing. Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing is one of the easiest ways to protect your skin from the sun. Complement your look with a hat (preferably with a wide brim) to help protect your scalp, face, and neck.
Three key things to keep in mind when purchasing sunscreen.
- Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
- Think about the activities you’ll be taking part in while you’re outside, such as swimming or boating. Water-resistant sunscreen will wear off less quickly than one that is not water-resistant.
If you are spending time on the water, you are at double risk of exposure to UV rays as you not only face direct sunlight but also light reflecting off the water. As such, you are more predisposed for sunburn, If you are using a water-resistant sunscreen, reapply every 40 minutes.
There are two types of sunscreen:
- Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays before they can penetrate the skin. The most common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. These products rub into the skin better than non-chemical sunscreens and do not leave a thick, white layer as some mineral sunscreens do.
- Mineral sunscreens deflect UV rays to protect the skin. These products are made of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Mineral-based sunscreens are more suitable than chemical ones for individuals with sensitive skin.
A chemical-based sunscreen is far better than no sunscreen at all, but those who are concerned about potential effects of chemical sunscreens on the environment or their health may prefer a mineral sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreens can be absorbed by the skin and found in the bloodstream, contributing to mood imbalances, And incidentally, chemical sunscreens are also being discouraged, even banned, in some areas for a negative impact on the environment as it has been linked to coral reef bleaching.
Jennifer Young, who runs her skincare company making products especially for cancer patients, says suggests “a moisturising sunscreen from the dermatologist-led brand, Altruist, offers broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays. With a five-star ultra UVA rating, it has the highest rating for ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) protection. It is water-resistant and has been designed for sensitive skin to help reduce the risk of skin cancer and prevent premature ageing from sun damage.
- Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside.
- Cover every exposed surface of your skin with sunscreen. Don’t forget areas like the tops of your feet and ears. Most adults will need to use about one ounce—or a full shot glass amount—of sunscreen.
- Use a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or more to protect your lips, which are also sensitive to the sun.
- Spray sunscreens are convenient but they don’t always provide complete protection. They can also irritate your eyes, mouth, nose, and lungs. For best results, spray the sunscreen onto your hands first, then rub it into your skin—especially around your face.
Early skin cancer can be harder to spot on darker skin. Have regular skin exams and routine visits to a dermatologist to identify areas of concern. Don’t assume a dark skin gives better protection.
In the US the estimated five-year melanoma survival rate for Black individuals is 67% versus 92% for whites,
How to get enough Vitamin D
Sun exposure plays a role in the production of vitamin D, but dermatologists say that there are ways to get your vitamin D without damaging your skin.
The amount of vitamin D a person creates from sun exposure is variable,and since sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends getting adequate vitamin D through dietary sources, including foods naturally rich in vitamin D, foods and beverages fortified with vitamin D, or vitamin D supplements.”
The Royal Osteoporosis Society’s Helpline is particularly knowledgeable on this subject. Some foods that provide a generous amount of vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, red meat, liver, and mushrooms. Foods such as breakfast cereals and milk are fortified with additional vitamin D.6
Jennifer Young’s products: https://www.beautydespitecancer.com/products/invisible-sunspray-spf50
Safe practices, especially if you start young, help prevent skin damage, lowers chances of developing skin cancer, and avoids premature skin aging.