By: Larry Studt, M.D., Occupational Health & Medicine Program, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph Hospitals
Having a golden tan may look great in the summer, but it has the potential to cause serious problems, such as melanoma, down the road. Melanoma is a potentially dangerous form of skin cancer because it can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. The earlier that melanoma is detected and removed, the more likely that treatment will be successful.
People who have had at least one severe, blistering sunburn have an increased chance of melanoma. Sunburns during adulthood also increase the chance of melanoma. And remember, the greater the total amount of sun exposure over a lifetime, the greater the chance of melanoma.
Use the "ABCDE" rule for melanoma detection:
Asymmetry. The shape of one half does not match the other half.
Border that is irregular. The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
Color that is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
Diameter. There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than 6 millimeters wide (about 1/4 inch wide).
Evolving. The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months. Protect your skin by using sunscreen products with a SPF of at least 15. Apply the product’s recommended amount to uncovered skin 30 minutes before going outside, and apply again every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
When outdoors, be sure to wear a hat with a wide brim all around that shades your face, neck, and ears. Baseball caps and some sun visors protect only parts of your skin. Don’t forget to protect the skin around your eyes by wearing sunglasses that block UV rays.
While it’s tempting to be outside in shorts and sleeveless, wearing long pants and long sleeves can keep your skin protected. Keep in mind the sun’s rays are strongest between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Using a little caution when enjoying the summer sun can keep your skin healthy for years to come.
Watch the “Ask the Doc” video for more information!