June 3, 2010


WAYNESBORO, Tenn. — More than one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, outnumbering all other cancers combined, according to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. While spending time outdoors during the summer is part of a healthy, active lifestyle, people should monitor their exposure to the sun. During Sun Safety Month, Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) offers tips to provide protection in the summer sun.

“During the summer months, many people spend more time outside, increasing their exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, radiation. Unfortunately, UV rays are the main cause of skin cancer,” said Dr. Benjamin Hayes, a specialist in dermatology on the medical staff at MRMC. “While individuals with lighter skin are more susceptible to UV damage, people of all races and ethnicities can be at risk for skin cancer.”

Dr. Hayes offers the following tips to reduce the risk of skin cancer:

  • Cover up. When you are out in the sun, wear clothing such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt or a wide-brimmed hat to protect as much skin as possible. Do so even on overcast days, when there is still a risk of burning from the sun.
  • Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. The SPF number represents the level of protection against UVB rays provided by the sunscreen. Use a palmful of sunscreen to cover your arms, legs, neck and face, and more where needed. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Protect your children from the sun. On average, children get three times more UV exposure than adults. One blistering sunburn can double a child’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, according to the Sun Safety Alliance.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand. These elements reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Wear sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that protect you from 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB light. Consider wraparound sunglasses to prevent harmful UV rays from entering around the frame.
  • Limit direct sun exposure during midday. UV rays are most intense during the middle of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If possible, plan outdoor activities around that timeframe.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolent light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, use a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

Any change in your skin, whether burned or moderately tanned, is a sign of UV damage. Fortunately, skin cancer can be easy to detect since it occurs on the skin surface. Dr. Hayes suggests thoroughly examining your skin every few months, looking for new moles and dark spots or changes in their size, color, texture and shape.

“If you notice anything on your skin changing, growing or bleeding, see a dermatologist. Though it is estimated that one American dies every hour from skin cancer, the disease is very treatable when caught early. Do what you can to protect your skin and check it often,” said Dr. Hayes.