In your haste to greet the brightly shining orb in the sky, in this the sometimes sunny and warm weather of Portland’s long-awaited summer, don’t forget to give some attention to the largest organ of your body — your skin.
You may not realize this, but your skin’s health is integral to your overall health — protecting internal organs from injury and bacteria, as well as regulating your body’s temperature and helping to process excess water and salts — your skin is looking out for you.
But what are you doing to look out for your skin?
Skin Cancer: A primer
The most common of all cancers — skin cancer, accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. Including more than than 2 million cases of non-melanoma and over 68,000 cases of melanoma found each year.
The majority of skin cancers are classified as non-melanomas, that develop on sun-exposed areas of the body, like the face, ear, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands, they rarely spread to other parts of the body and are much more likely to resolve with early detection and treatment.
On the other hand, melanoma is a cancer that begins in the cells that produce your skin’s pigment or melanin. These cells protect your deepest layers of skin from sun damage. Although, it’s nearly always curable with early detection and treatment, if left untreated melanoma can be deadly. In fact, of the over 68,000 people who will be diagnosed with melanoma each year, around 8,700 of these will die.
Still, melanoma has a high survival rate when detected and treated early (around 94%). Statistics show, early detection and treatment of skin cancers is crucial to survival but as we always say at our clinic:
Prevention is the best medicine
We all know by now, the advantages of using sunscreen in preventing skin cancer but what you may not know is that examining your skin monthly for signs or symptoms of skin cancer and asking your doctor about anything you find that is questionable, is also an important part of skin cancer prevention. Regular skin examinations can lead to early diagnosis, treatment and positive survival outcomes. We recommend annual derm checks with a dermatologist, especially for those with fair skin, light-hair or people with a family history of skin cancer.
At Bloom, we can also help you support your body from the inside out, reducing the negative effects of past skin damage through changes in diet, the addition of certain antioxidants, balancing hormones, and shoring up the immune system. In addition, we also recommend taking vitamin D — ironically, this vitamin (which is naturally manufactured by exposure to the sun) can help aid in repairing damage to skin caused by over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The trick here, is that a little bit of sun exposure to skin and eyes goes a long way (no sunscreen, no sunglasses) for about 20 minutes maximum at a time. But never, if temperatures are too high. You can and should supplement your vitamin D intake as well.
Here are some of the best ways to practice sun safety:
- Sunscreen, SunScreen SUNSCREEN! Apply sunscreen in SPF15 or higher, liberally and often throughout the day when you will be exposed to the sun, reapplying after swimming, toweling off, or perspiring. If you will be outside for longer than 20 minutes of exposure, use lotions, makeup and lip balms fortified with sunscreen, even on hazy or overcast days.
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Seek shade, especially mid-day when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Cover your precious skin to protect it as much as possible in bright sun conditions. Clothing and hats should be light and comfortable but also made of tightly woven materials that you cannot see through. There are some materials and clothing lines recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, specifically designed to shield your skin from harmful UV rays.
- Wear sunglasses offering 100% UV protection.
- Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.
- Don’t forget your toes, neck and ears. These smaller areas need protection too, so be sure and slather them with sunscreen as well.
Skin Cancer Risk
Those most at risk for developing skin cancer are those who have or had:
- Repeated unprotected sun or ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure (this includes tanning beds)
- Fair complexion
- Family history of skin cancer
- Multiple or atypical moles
- Severe childhood sunburns
If you suspect a mole, lesion or skin anomaly of being skin cancer, please see your doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Now, grab your sunscreen and floppy hat and go enjoy the sun!
- Eco-Friendly, Non-Toxic Sunscreens: Everything You Need to Know (blogher.com)
- July is UV Safety Month (medicineandtechnology.com)
- Something New Under the Sun: UV-Protective Clothing (stevenleesdouglas.wordpress.com)
- Summer Skin Safety: This Skin Cancer PSA Will Make You Worship SPF (blisstree.com)