Taking extra steps to protect your skin this summer can help prevent you
from developing melanoma in years to come.
Summer in Boston means harbor-side walks, neighborhood barbeques and a dip in one of the nearby beaches, but it should also mean protecting your skin from the summer sun. There is a growing skin cancer epidemic in the United States. Each year, more than 2 million Americans get skin cancer, and more than 120,000 will get melanoma, the most deadly form of the disease. With melanoma cases on the rise, now one in 58 people in the United States will get an invasive melanoma within their lifetimes, and each year more than 8,000 people will die of this disease.
As the weather turns warmer and sunnier, Boston Medical Center dermatologists recommend some sun safety tips to keep you and your family skin cancer-free.
- Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen, with an SPF 30 or higher, liberally and frequently. Look for sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection.
- Avoid sun exposure whenever possible: Exposure to the sun can increase your risk of developing skin cancer dramatically, especially during the sun’s peak hours of 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Seek shade whenever possible and wear photoprotective clothing.
- Stay away from tanning beds and sun lamps: There is no safe type of UV radiation, despite manufacturer’s claims. These devices can lead to skin cancer. They can also impair vision and age the skin prematurely.
- See your dermatologist on a regular basis: Do you have lots of moles? Funny-looking moles? A personal or family history of skin cancer? Do you have red or blonde hair? Blue eyes or freckles? Have you ever had a blistering sunburn? Did you have lots of sun as a child? All of these factors put you at a significantly greater risk of developing melanoma. Melanoma can appear anywhere on the skin’s surface – even on normal-appearing skin.
- Remember the ABCDEs of skin cancer: Asymmetry, Borders that are irregular, Color that is unusual or varied, Diameter that is large or changing and Evolving or changing moles. Have a dermatologist evaluate any skin irregularity with these features or any spots on your skin that seem out of the ordinary. Annual visits to a dermatologist could save your life or those of a loved one.
Rhoda Alani, M.D., chief and chair of the Department of Dermatology at BMC and Boston University School of Medicine, is leading groundbreaking research in the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of melanoma. Current research projects include a non-invasive skin scanner to detect melanoma and identifying inhibitors to critical melanoma pathways to develop prototype therapies for the disease.