Categorized | Health

Skin damage, skin cancer: Safe sun goes beyond summer

By Jeannette Sheehan

In as little as 15 minutes the sun’s UV rays can damage our skin, yet it can take up to 12 hours for our bodies to show the impact of our time in the sun. While we often think of sun protection during the summer months, it is important to protect our skin year round.

Don’t think because you’re not sitting directly under the rays of the sun you can go without protection. Indirect sun damage occurs when sunlight reflects off a surface like the water or sand onto your skin.

Think you’re protected sitting inside? According to The American Cancer Society, “Some UV rays can also pass through windows. Typical car, home and office windows block most of the UVB rays, but a smaller portion of UVA rays. So even if you don’t feel you’re getting burned, your skin may still get some damage.”

As we age, our skin naturally changes; things take longer to heal, we lose elasticity and our skin becomes thinner. For seniors, these changes make it extremely important to protect their skin from the sun.

Sun protection

It’s never too late to start taking care of your skin.

1. Use sunscreen and products with an SPF of 15 or greater (30 for fair skin). This should be done 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and/or after swimming.

2. Spend time in the shade rather than the sun. Be aware of indirect sunlight.

3. Moisturize your skin daily to help retain moisture and elasticity.

4. Cover up. Wear long sleeves and pants. There is clothing available today with additional UV protection.

5. Use umbrellas, hats and sunglasses. Protect your eyes and the delicate skin surrounding them by wearing sunglasses with UV protection. Sunglasses also help reduce the risk of cataracts.

6. Check your skin. Be aware of changes.

Skin cancer

There are three most common types of skin cancer:

Basal cell carcinoma accounts for over 90 percent of all skin cancers. It may appear as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the ears, face or neck. Or as a flat, pink, red or brown colored lesion on the torso, arms or legs.

Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a rough, scaly flat lesion that might itch, bleed and become crusty. Or as a firm, red nodule.

Melanoma can appear as a pigmented patch or bump. It might resemble a normal mole, but the appearance is more atypical.

With Melanoma, there is the ABCD rule to follow:

A: Asymmetry — the shape of the mole does not look the same on both sides.

B: Border — the edges are often rough or blurred rather than smooth.

C: Color — the color often consists of shades of brown, black, red, white or blue.

D: Diameter — Be aware of any moles you might have and watch for changes in size.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma have a highly successful cure rate if caught early. According to the Center of Disease Control, melanoma accounts for only about 4 to 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, yet it causes most skin cancer-related deaths. However, if detected and treated in its earliest stages, melanoma is often curable.

For more information visit the American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/SunandUVExposure/index.

Jeannette Sheehan, MSN, RN, a board certified nurse practitioner, is founder and owner of ABC Home Healthcare Professionals, 233 Albion St., Wakefield. She can be reached at 781-245-1880 or online at www.abchhp.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read on fiftyplusadvocate.com.

 

 

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