HomeNewsThe sun will come out … tomorrow -by Dr. Mark Turek, family physician

The sun will come out … tomorrow -by Dr. Mark Turek, family physician

It is been a cloudy spring so far. But that doesn’t mean the dog days of summer aren’t around the corner. Hopefully it means more outside time for all of us. And with that comes sun exposure. Time outside in the sun with loved ones, pursuing a hobby, or even your everyday work can be very enjoyable. But it also involves risk. Sun exposure is the major risk factor for skin cancers including the fastest growing skin cancer in the United States – melanoma. Sun exposure is additive or cumulative. That means those sunburns we get when we are young, contribute to skin problems when we are older. Each sun exposure, even if it only results in tanning, increases the risk for skin cancer and skin damage. Protection from the harmful rays of the sun is important whether you are young or old. So what can you do? Consider your skin type: If you have fair skin, red or blonde hair, or light -colored eyes, you are likely to sunburn than a dark skin toned person. If he you have already had sunburns in your lifetime, you already have a higher risk of skin cancer. It is even more important to protect your skin from further sun damage. Consider your surroundings: Would working or visiting in the shade be equally as enjoyable as sitting in the sun? Are you on the water? Water reflects some of the rays back to you; so you are getting more exposure than if you were on grass. Concrete or pavement has the same effect as water. Elevation makes a difference. The higher the elevation the less atmosphere to filter out those harmful rays. And latitude also makes a difference. Protecting yourself on vacation in Florida during January is important. If you are in the sun what can you do? Wear protective clothing. A long sleeve shirt will provide more protection than a T-shirt. Long pants obviously cover more than shorts do. And don’t forget about those parts you can’t see – the back of your neck and the tops of your head and ears. A wide brim hat will cover those, where a baseball cap may not. For those areas that are sun exposed and cannot be covered up, use a sunscreen. This is especially important for children and adolescents. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Try to avoid the peak sun hours of 10 AM to 2 PM. If you are sweating a lot or swimming, reapply frequently. And yes fishermen rinse your hands, apply your bait, and then REAPPLY the sunscreen. Lastly, what should we watch for to see if we do contract skin cancer? Most skin cancers occur as a new growth that is continuing to enlarge. Often these act like sores that won’t heal or keep coming back. For the most dreaded type of skin cancer, melanoma, think about the ABCDEFs: • Asymmetry – irregular or “funny” shape. • Border irregularity – an outgrowth or “feeler” projecting from the skin spot. • Color variability – several different shades or changing color of the spot. • Diameter – larger than 6 mm or larger than the size of a pencil eraser. • Evolution – a progressive change in the size, color or border. • Feeling – a change in the way the spot feels like roughening or itching. If you have a skin spot that concerns you, be sure to talk to your family health care provider about it. Proper skin protection can help to keep all your “mole problems” in the garden and not in the doctor’s office. Enjoy the sunny days, but don’t let them harm you.