July is #UVSafetyMonth. It's important to educate yourself on sun safety, especially when one out of every five Americans develop skin cancer in their lifetime and half of all Americans 65 years or older develop a non-melanoma skin cancer at least once.
Over the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancers, than all other cancers combined. Skin cancer prevention efforts start with increasing public awareness. #UVSafetyMonth is one effort to raise awareness of the risks of sun exposure. Stay up to date on your yearly checkups and continue reading to learn more.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation comes from the sun's electromagnetic spectrum. UV radiation consists of two types of radiation: long-wave Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and short-wave Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Primary care physicians, such as dermatologists, provide patients with education on UV safety and act as agents of early detection.
Protect yourself by practicing safe sun practices starting with limiting sun exposure during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and adhering to proper SPF etiquette. SPF, which stands for sun protection factor, is a sunscreen rating based on the degree of protection it provides. SPF is calculated based on the total amount of sun exposure. This depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to:
- Time of day
- Length of sun exposure
In order to continue effectiveness, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours when outside for extended periods of time. SPF value is also limited to protection from UVB radiation only.
Skin cancer occurs when the body doesn't repair damage to the DNA inside skin cells, allowing the cells to divide and grow uncontrollably. Skin cell damage may be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics and skin type. Most cases of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to UV light produced by the sun or tanning beds. Skin cancer may appear as a dark spot, lesion, a wound that does not heal or a bump on the skin. The type of skin cancer depends on the cells that are damaged. For example:
- Basal cell carcinoma - the most common type of skin cancer, is caused by damage to basal cells that sit just below the skin’s surface.
- Squamous cell carcinoma - is cancer of the cells on the surface of the skin. Squamous cells also make up the lining of the digestive and respiratory systems and the inner lining of hollow organs, such as the kidneys.
- Melanoma - may occur when melanocytes are damaged. These cells give skin its pigment and darken the skin when it is exposed to the sun.
Other than taking preventative measures, such as using SPF and reapplying throughout your time in the sun, recognize the warning signs of skin cancer and get a skin exam from a primary care physician. Most patients with skin cancer develop non-melanoma which includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Roughly 90 percent of non-melanoma cancers are attributable to UV radiation from the sun.
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to limit exposure to sunlight. Having a suntan or sunburn means that the skin has been damaged by the sun and continued tanning or burning increases the chance of developing skin cancer. If you are exposed to sunlight, take preventative measures, such as using and reapplying sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF. You should also recognize the warning signs of skin cancer and get a skin exam from a primary care physician if you suspect any changes.
Dermatologists are primary care physicians with special training that includes the diagnosis and management of skin cancers. When you see a dermatologist for a complete skin checkup, expect a 10 to 15-minute visit, including a review of your medical history and a head-to-toe skin examination. This is a good time to ask about any spots you are worried about. Your dermatologist can educate you about what to look for, such as any changes in the size, color, borders or shape of a mole. Virtually any notable change in a mole should be checked out.
Typically, a spot that the doctor suspects is cancerous will be biopsied. During a biopsy, a sliver of tissue is removed for evaluation by a pathologist who confirms, or refutes, the dermatologist’s suspicions.
Concordance Healthcare Solutions provides a wide array of supplies and instrumentation to help dermatologists screen, diagnose, detect and treat skin cancer. We support all primary care physicians and practices as they support you in dealing with the harmful effects of UV rays.