Wear Sunscreen, Your Body Will Thank You

After weeks at home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many are anxious to spend as much time outside relishing in the sun. However, our desire to elevate our moods (as well as getting a good dose of Vitamin D) must be done responsibly or risk skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States but is very preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends simple ways for people to protect themselves from UV radiation generated by the sun while still enjoying the approaching summer months. The CDC suggests:

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun when possible.
  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF15 (SPF15 means a person can stay in the sun 15-times longer than without sunscreen before their skin turns red from UVB rays) SPF only refers to UVB protection.
    • To protect against UVA, look for products containing: Mexoryl, Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone.
    • Sunscreen performance is affected by wind, humidity, perspiration, and proper application.
    • Throw away sunscreens after 1–2 years (they lose potency).
    • Apply liberally (minimum of 1 oz, or the size of a shot glass) at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.
    • Don’t forget to apply to ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet, and backs of hands!
    • Reapply at least every 2 hours and each time a person gets out of the water or perspires heavily.
    • Some sunscreens may lose their effectiveness when applied with insect repellents. You may need to reapply more often.
  • Wear clothing with a tight weave or high-SPF clothing.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with UV protection and side panels.
  • Take breaks in shaded areas.

A change in skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. Whether it is a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole, the way skin cancer manifests can vary. The most common types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are highly curable. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and can be deadly. Dr. Jessica Taff, an oncologist in Toms River, NJ, says “the best way to avoid spread of melanoma is prevention, awareness about the spots on your skin, and taking early action when you see concerning signs.” Some of the warning signs for melanoma are as easy as remembering your ABC’s:

  • “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
  • “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
  • “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
  • “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

The American Cancer Society estimates nearly five million people are treated for skin cancer each year in the United States and approximately 100,350 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2020. To encourage safe sunning, the CDC is promoting #SunSafeSelfie. Photograph yourself using sun protection, post it on social media and tag it with #SunSafeSelfie and #RWJBH. While posting photos is fun, make sure to continue to practice what you post.

For more information or to find a specialist who treats skin cancer, please visit www.rwjbh.org/medicalgroup and select find a doctor, where you can search by physician name, specialty, or location.