Summertime means summer fun, and that means people spend a large amount of time in the sun.
Physicians urge all to protect themselves against ultraviolet ray sun damage, which can lead to a myriad of problems, including deadly skin cancers. Dr. Leslie Turk, a Minden dermatologist, says the most common types of skin cancer he sees from sun damage is squamous cell carcinoma, which make up the middle and outer skin areas.
Another type of skin cancer he says he sees is merkel cell carcinoma; it is much more malignant than a melanoma, but not as common. Merkel cells make up the top layer of skin.
He says rough areas to the touch usually precede squamous cell carcinoma, and they are in sun-exposed areas.
“We try to treat those before it becomes squamous cell carcinoma,” he said. “We can do that in many ways, but the most expeditious is cryosurgery, where you can freeze them. You can use various topicals to treat those also, but they bear more expense. Most people prefer cryosurgery.”
He says to watch for pigmented areas that change, such as a mole that might change size in width and diameter, or a spot that is not the same color as the rest of the skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology offers ways for people to check for anything that might look different:
- Look for areas that are asymmetrical. In other words, one half of a spot is unlike the other half.
- Check for irregular, scalloped or poorly defined borders.
- Check for color – it may be varied from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white red or blue.
- Check for diameter.
- Also check for a mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest.
“There are several things that we look for in screening,” Turk said. “The main thing is to get screened and if you’re growing something new, let a dermatologist check it.”
Turk says it is important for men, women and children to protect themselves in the sun by wearing protective clothing, such as long sleeves if the temperatures are bearable, sunglasses and hats that cover the ears.
“We see a lot of carcinomas over the ears,” he said. “A lot of people just wear ball caps, and it doesn’t give you the protection you need.”
Sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 is very important, he says, and should be applied at least every couple of hours, even the waterproof sunscreen.
“Sunscreen should become a daily habit for men and women,” he said. “For women, a lot of makeups have sunscreen in them, but it needs to be with an SPF greater than seven. Some of those makeups just don’t have enough in them. They need to put on a base sunscreen and then their makeup.”
For children, he doesn’t necessarily recommend a higher SPF than 30, but he does recommended reapplication often, at least every two hours.
The main thing he encouraged is protection and prevention through screening. Turk says that following these few simple habits can make the difference.