Skin Care: Sun Protection


As we all continue to partake in the summer festivities, caring for our skin should not be overlooked. Our skin is in fact our largest organ and has many important functions including protecting our internal organs from harm or infection as well as physical damage. As our skin is so important, it is vital that we do everything we can to protect it from damage. Any form of damage could lead to major issues later.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the U.S. It is the result of an abnormal growth of damaged skin cells. The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Generally, these two forms of skin cancer are easily curable, but treatment can lead to disfiguration in cases where the affected areas have to be removed surgically. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Treatment for this type is usually more aggressive.

Risk factors for skin cancer include:

  • A lighter natural skin color
    • Darker skin tones have more melanocytes which are able to reduce the effects of UVA and UVB radiation. This does not eliminate risk for anyone. Adequate sun protection is still required regardless of skin color.
  • Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun
    • Burns, freckles, reddening, or even pain can signal damage to the skin cells. Damage to the skin cells and the DNA within these cells can lead to cancer if the cells are allowed to continue to grow.
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Blond or red hair
  • Certain types and a large number of moles
    • Depending on the size, shape, and position of the moles, they could be an indication of abnormal growth.
  • A family history of skin cancer
    • Familial Melanoma is a form of melanoma that can be passed on from one generation to the next. The best way to determine your risk for this is via a Hereditary Risk Assessment like PREDICT™ from LabSolutions.
  • A personal history of skin cancer

Symptoms of skin cancer include any change to the skin. This can include a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a current mole. Typically, it is best for a person to check their skin and get regular evaluations by a physician. Also, it is good to report any abnormalities to your doctor as soon as possible. While it may not mean an immediate diagnosis, it can be an indicator of a pattern that could lead to a diagnosis later. An earlier diagnosis means better options for treatment.

Prevention of skin cancer is quite simple. Sunscreen should be worn while outside at all times even on cloudy days or overcast days. A minimum SPF of 15 is recommended. A higher SPF is better, but once SPF 30 is reached, that is pretty much the highest effective form. Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside. It is also best to seek shade before sun exhaustion sets in and to cover up when possible with loose clothing, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses.

The most recommended tip by the CDC and the WHO (World Health Organization) is to avoid excessive exposure to UV radiation. That means eliminating the use of tanning beds. Sunless tanning options are recommended as an alternative.

As the largest organ of our body, our skin requires the most maintenance. However, the maintenance is fairly simple and can prevent very serious conditions.

For more information about how to get your very own Hereditary Risk Assessment for familial melanoma or any other hereditary cancer, ask your doctor about PREDICT today!