June 24, 2013

Marshall Medical Center warns the public about skin cancer risks


LEWISBURG, Tenn. — The arrival of summer always brings more people outside for longer periods of time and that means more skin is exposed to the sun. Marshall Medical Center (MMC) joins the nation’s emergency physicians in reminding the public about the dangers associated with sun damage.

“Most of us want to get some sun in the summertime,” said Dr. Andrew Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “But emergency physicians often see the pain of patients who get too much sun. If you don’t protect your skin, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage it in 15 minutes.”

The obvious major risk from sun damage is skin cancer. Melanoma is currently the third most common skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and it can be deadly. 

Individuals at highest risk for skin cancer include those with:

  • A history of sunburn
  • Lighter, natural skin color and/or light colored hair (blonde or red)
  • Personal or family history of skin cancer
  • Numerous moles on the skin
  • A suppressed immune system 

According to Dr. Thomas Mitchell, MMC emergency department medical director, sunburn dangers in addition to skin cancer include dehydration, eye damage, second-degree burns, skin infections and, rarely, shock from massive fluid loss. The full extent of skin damage may not be known until several hours after exposure.

“The effects of sunburn are often felt in the hours and days after sun exposure, but sun damage can also haunt you years from now in the form of skin cancer,” said Dr. Mitchell. “If you notice any unusual discoloration on your skin or anything out of the ordinary, it’s best to have it checked out by a physician.”

People of every color should protect their skin during all types of weather. Even if it is cool and cloudy, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage your skin. To protect against sunburn:

  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours when the sun is strongest
  • Wear sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection and with sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher. Use a higher SPF when near the water.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours, especially after swimming and sweating.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV ray protection to protect your eyes.
  • Wear a hat to protect your head.
  • Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin.
  • Teach children how to protect their skin. Especially protect the sensitive skin of babies younger than 6 months.