Summer Days in Austin, Texas
In a hot Austin summer, the sun can be a source of a lot of fun, as well as a lot of pain. Without good sunscreen applied thoroughly and often, we put ourselves and families at risk of sunburns, premature aging and skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and it affects people of all ages and skin types.
What You Need to Know
As doctors, we love getting into the nitty gritty, but here are the skin cancer and skin protection basics you need to know.
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and exposure to UV radiation increases your risk.
- Wear broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
- Apply sunscreen regularly and after sweating or swimming
- Treat sunburn with cold compresses, moisturizing lotion, ibuprofen or aspirin, and lots of hydration.
- Regularly check your body for moles that change shape or color, as well as waxy growths.
- DO NOT USE A TANNING BED
If you’ve had too much fun in the sun and you’re suffering from a nasty burn, blisters or think you have a suspicious spot, give us a call. We’ll be able to cool you down and get you feeling better. Schedule a visit online now.
Protect Your Skin with a Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) light that can harm your skin: UVA and UVB. Too much exposure to UVA or UVB rays can cause skin cancer. UVA rays also prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays may burn your skin. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV radiation and is called broad-spectrum or full-spectrum, sunscreen.
A commonly held belief is that the best sunscreen has the highest Sun Protection Factor (SPF), which is not necessarily true. SPF is only a measure of how well sunscreen protects against UVB rays. UVA protection isn’t rated in the numbering scheme. When applied correctly, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 may provide slightly more protection from UVB rays than a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, but it’s not twice as protective as the SPF 15 product. Once you hit SPF 50, anything higher isn’t going to provide much more noticeable protection.
Sunscreen manufacturers calculate SPF based on how long it takes for skin to burn that’s been treated with the sunscreen as compared to skin with no sunscreen.
We suggest that you choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. No matter what level of protection, sunscreen that is not applied thoroughly or thickly enough can be washed off during swimming or sweating.
How Much Sunscreen Should I Use, and How Often Should I Apply It?
Use enough sunscreen to generously coat all of your skin that will be not be covered by clothing. If your face, ears, arms or hands won’t be covered by clothing, apply sunscreen. It’s better to use too much than too little.
- Use one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass), which doctors consider the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Adjust the amount of sunscreen based on body size.
- Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors.
- Protect your lips from skin cancer by applying a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, or after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.
How to Treat Sunburn
Despite our best efforts to protect our skin with clothing and broad-spectrum sunscreen, a sunburn can happen. Take sunburns seriously and do your best to prevent them, as your melanoma risk rises with each instance of sun damage.
1. Act Fast to Cool Skin Down
Near the cold water of a pool, lake or ocean? Take a dip to cool your skin, but just for a few seconds. Then cover up and get out of the sun immediately. Continue to cool the burn with cold compresses or with a quick, cool shower or bath. Too much water on the skin can dry it out further.
2. Moisturize Skin While It’s Damp
Use a gentle moisturizing lotion while the skin is damp. Repeat daily for a few days to keep burned or peeling skin moist. Caution: do not use petroleum or oil-based ointments, which may trap the heat and make the burn worse.
3. Decrease Inflammation
At the first sign of sunburn, take an ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin to help with discomfort and inflammation. A one-percent cortisone cream applied on the burn for a few days may help calm redness and swelling. Aloe vera may also soothe mild burns and is generally considered safe. Wear loose, soft, breathable clothing to avoid further skin irritation, and definitely stay out of the sun.
4. Hydrate Your Body
You may become dehydrated since burns draw fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body. Drink extra liquids, including water, coconut water and/or sports drinks that help to replenish electrolytes while your skin heals.
Check Your Skin for Cancer
Self-exams can help you identify moles and potential skin cancers early, when they can almost always be completely cured. Examine your skin from head to toe looking for any suspicious spots or lesions. Doctors recommend that you do a monthly skin check throughout the year.
Look both for new moles or growths and any existing growths that have begun to grow or change significantly in any other way since your last check. If you have spots or lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don’t seem to heal, get seen by a physician right away. With melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, doctors look at skin lesions using common standards: the ABCDEs and the Ugly Duckling sign.
An unusual skin growth, bump or sore that doesn’t go away may be the first indication of a non-melanoma skin cancer (called basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas). A pale patch of skin or a waxy translucent bump on the head or neck is an early sign of basal cell carcinoma. On the chest it may look more like a brownish scar or flesh-colored lesion. Squamous cell carcinomas may also develop as a lump on the skin. Spot a reddish scaly patch? Whereas a skin rash may go away with time, these rough lesion-like patches remain and continue to develop slowly. This type of cancer typically is found on the head, neck, hands or arms, but can also develop in other areas, such as the genital region or in scars or skin sores. Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas may also develop as a flat area that does not look much different from normal skin, so it is important be aware of the symptoms of skin cancer and discuss any skin changes with your doctor.
Tanning is Not a Summer Sport
We’ve highlighted some of the dangers of sun exposure, including sunburn and skin cancer, both melanoma and non-melanoma, so we shouldn’t have to tell you not to use a tanning bed, but don’t use a tanning bed.
Too much sun and tanning can lead to skin growths or bumps called actinic or solar keratoses, which are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer and are caused by long-term exposure to the UV rays. They are the most common premalignant skin condition affecting more than 5 million Americans each year. They share some of the symptoms of skin cancer. During your self-exam, look for raised, rough-textured, or scaly bumps that occur in areas that have been sunburned or tanned. Most cases of actinic keratoses are easily treated by a doctor’s removing them with liquid nitrogen or chemical peels.
Eye Damage can be caused by UV rays. Cataracts are one form of eye damage that may increase with UV exposure. Clouding of the natural lens of the eye causing decreased vision and possible blindness are all effects of cataracts. Other types of eye damage include cancer around the eyes, macular degeneration and irregular tissue growth that can block vision or pterygium.
Overexposure to UV radiation may cause immune system suppression and use of the skin’s natural defenses, increasing sensitivity to sunlight, diminishing the effects of immunizations and/or causing reactions to certain medications.
Premature aging or photoaging is the result of unprotected UV exposure. It takes the form of leathery, wrinkled skin, and dark spots. The likely cause is UV rays’ breaking down the collagen and elastin in skin that cause wrinkles and loosened skin folds. Many hours spent tanning or frequent sunburns can result in a permanent darkening of the skin, dark spots, and a leathery texture to the affected areas.
Have fun in the sun, but be smart too. You should seek medical help right away if you or your child has severe blistering over a large portion of the body, has a fever and chills, or is dizzy or confused following sun exposure. Do not scratch or pop blisters, which can lead to infection. Signs of infection include red streaks or oozing pus.
Get a mole or suspicious skin lump or bump checked out in the comfort of your home or office in less than 90 minutes with Remedy Urgent Care. Schedule a visit online now.