How to protect your skin this summer
As the weather warms and we head outdoors, it’s good to remember the importance of maintaining healthy skin. Julian Kim, MD, offered some reminders on how to protect your skin and prevent skin cancer.
“The skin is the largest organ of the body and it serves many vital functions,” said Dr. Kim, a surgical oncologist who specializes in the surgical treatment of skin cancers. “Excessive sun exposure is a risk factor for the development of premature aging as well as certain types of skin cancer. Proper hydration and skin protection from sun and wind will help keep your skin healthy.”
What causes skin cancer?
Dr. Kim said the ultraviolet rays from the sun cause damage to the skin. And when the damage is not repaired properly, skin cancer can develop. The chance of developing skin cancer can be lessened by:
- Limiting time in the sun to periods when rays are less intense (morning or later afternoon)
- Applying sunscreen of at least 30 SPF every two hours
- Wearing sun-protective clothing
“The options for sun-protective clothing are increasing, particularly for those who enjoy watersports and swimming,” said Dr. Kim. “Wide-brimmed hats and UV protective sunglasses are important, as well as seeking areas of shade. There’s nothing wrong with staying under an umbrella at the beach or pool! Remember to reapply sunscreen after you have been in the water.”
What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?
“Skin cancer can take many forms, from a dark spot to a new area of raised skin,” said Dr. Kim. “In general, it is helpful to take note of your skin markings and keep an eye out for any changes in size, shape, coloration or if they become raised. If you can’t see your back, try a mirror or ask a friend or family member. Pictures are a good way to catalogue changes in skin markings. Any skin lesion that bleeds spontaneously should be checked by a physician.”
What is the treatment for skin cancer?
Dr. Kim said skin cancers are generally treated with surgical removal, which can result in scars. “Unfortunately, certain skin cancers such as melanoma can spread to lymph nodes and other organs, leading to the need for therapies in addition to surgery,” he said. “The treatments for melanoma are improving and involve drugs which direct the immune system to fight the melanoma.”
Dr. Kim said prevention is key. “Do your best to prevent skin cancer by taking care of your skin. And if you are a parent or grandparent, remember to take care of your children’s skin – they are depending on you!”
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