Have Fun But Be Safe This Summer- Protect Your Skin From Sun Damage

Nikki Garrett Metzger

High Desert Daily Staff Writer

(Victorville) – Now that the last summer weekend is upon us  is in full swing, everyone will be enjoying more time outside.  When that includes spending time in the sun it is VERY important to protect your skin from sun damage and prevent skin cancer with the proper use of sunscreen.

Statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation show that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. More than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, primarily melanoma (the deadliest form).

Dr. V. Jegapragasan with Desert Valley Medical Group recently gave a talk about protecting your skin from sun damage at the Desert Valley Senior Center. “To protect your skin when you are going to be spending time outside, you need a broad spectrum sunscreen, covering BOTH UVA and UVB rays. About 15 SPF is good, ideally 30 is recommended.”

Known to his patients as Dr. Jegan, he continued, “Put sunscreen on every day, a teaspoon of it all over the body, half an hour before you leave. That will protect you for 2 hours max. After that, if you are going to be in the sun, you need to re-apply. Everyone should use sunscreen, starting at six months old.  Newborns should be kept out of the sun.”

Recently the FDA has issued new rules on the labeling of sunscreens. Manufacturers can no longer label them “water proof” or “sweat proof”.  Also they cannot call their product “sun block”.

Previously, most sunscreens on the market only protected the skin from UV (or ultraviolet) B sun rays. Recent research has proven that protection against UVA rays is just as important in a skin care regimen, along with seeking shade, especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm when sun light is the most intense. More ways to protect your skin include wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun rays.

What should you do if you get a sun burn? “Aloe vera is recommended to cool down and soothe the skin, and take an aspirin for the pain.  Nothing can reverse the damage because the ultraviolet light damages the DNA and alters cells, and that leads to skin cancer. If you get sun burned you are going to get skin cancer eventually, about 20 years down the line,” Jegan said.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has stepped up their awareness campaign because skin cancer is appearing in people at an earlier age than in the past. “The use of tanning beds can damage the skin because that is all UVA light focused directly on the skin.  We are seeing skin cancer in people in their early 20s” Dr. Jegan said.

Researchers are now finding that you can be at risk while you are driving in your car. A recent study done by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that Americans are developing the worse kind of skin cancer more often on the left side of their body, mainly on the upper arm.  They attribute this to people resting their arm on their car window while driving.  The incidence of cancer is most severe, according to the authors of the study, for people who drive with a window open, drive convertibles, or those who simply spend an extensive amount of time behind the wheel.

“The solution is easy. The windshield protects you, but the side windows offer no protection. If the side windows are tinted, then you are protected from the sun,” Dr. Jegan explained.

It is best to drive with the windows up and the air conditioner on, suggest the study authors.

People who need to be the most diligent about protecting their skin from the sun are those that are have fair skin with light colored hair and eyes.  “These are the people that burn easily and do not tan,” said Dr. Jegan.

Everyone needs to check their body for moles and freckles, from head to toe. Dr. Jegan explains, “You want to look for certain characteristics for the moles. The Skin Cancer Foudation has developed a system to help you identify the early warning signs of melanoma, called the ABCDEs of Melanoma.”

A = Asymmetry: an asymmetrical mole has sides that do not match

B = Border: the borders of melanomas tend to be uneven, with scalloped or notched edges

C = Color: Melanomas are often multicolored, in shades of brown or black, or even red, white or blue.

D = Diameter: Melanomas are usually bigger than a pencil eraser (1/4″ or 6mm) in diameter

E = Evolving: common moles look the same over time. Keep an eye out for moles that evolve or change in any way.

For more information on skin cancer and prevention tips visit the Skin Cancer Foundation website at www.skincancer.org. Dr. Jegan can be reached at Desert Valley Medical Group 760-241-8000.

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