Dr. Kara Nunley treats patients at
969 N Mason Road, 220
Creve Coeur, MO 63141
Phone: 314-996-8010 Fax: 314-275-8892
Question: Now that spring is here, what are the most important things I can do to protect myself from sun damage and prevent skin cancer?
Answer: Effective sun protection is important year-round, but it becomes even more essential as the warm weather approaches and we spend more time outdoors. Ultraviolet light from the sun contributes to the development of many types of skin cancer; it can also cause premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, and uneven pigmentation.
To keep your skin as healthy as possible, sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin every day – even during the winter and on days that are cloudy.
A few simple guidelines can help you choose a good sunscreen.
- Sun protection factor, or SPF, refers to the amount of UVB protection in a sunscreen - look for products that have an SPF 30 or higher.
- UVA protection is also important, as these rays can penetrate office and car windows and are known to contribute to skin cancer and photoaging.
- Choosing a product that is labeled "broad spectrum" ensures that it protects against the full range of UV light, including UVA and UVB rays.
- Moisturizers that include sunscreen are a good way to make sure that you are protecting your face on a daily basis.
- Sunscreens that have physical blockers, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and sun protective clothing are great options for children and people with sensitive skin.
- All sunscreens need to be used generously and reapplied every two hours to be effective.
Many people are worried that their vitamin D levels will decrease if they use sunscreen or avoid the sun. A nutritious diet rich in vitamin D and vitamin D supplements as recommended by your physician can help you get the vitamin D you need without increasing your risk for skin cancer.
Although prevention is ideal, early detection of skin cancer is equally important. A total body skin exam by a dermatologist every 1-2 years can identify any areas of concern. Studies have shown that over half of patients who have a suspicious lesion were not aware of the problem before their skin exam.
You can also benefit from performing monthly self-exams by looking thoroughly at all areas of your skin. You should see a dermatologist if you identify any moles or growths that are changing, bleeding or not healing, or look different from your other moles.
Many skin cancers and pre-cancers are treatable if addressed in a timely manner. Effective sun protection and early attention to any concerns can keep your skin healthy and looking its best.