Sunscreen, sun sense

OK, everyone. Take a knee. It’s summer, the sun’s out: you need to make sure your best friend for a day of play doesn’t become your skin-zapping mortal enemy. Some tips on dealing with the sun from the American Academy of Dermatology.

  • 30+ Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. By broad-spectrum they mean it provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
  • Once is never enough. Re-apply sunscreen approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Cover up. When possible, wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Shade is your friend. Especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. SRT (Shade Rule of Thumb): If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Protect the kids. Be especially diligent with little ones.
  • Water, snow and sand …  all reflect damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. “If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun,” advises the AAD, “consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.”
  • Birthday exam. On your birthday, give yourself the once over. If you notice anything changing/growing/bleeding, see a dermatologist. “Skin cancer,” advises the AAD, “is very treatable when caught early.

How treatable?

“Studies show that the five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99 percent – making early detection essential,” says dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, MD, a consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine.

So what exactly am I looking for?

The skin doctors advise you to abide by your ABCDEs when checking for telltale moles:

  • Asymmetric Half of the mole is unlike the other half.
  • Border Edges are irregular, scalloped or poorly defined.
  • Color Varies from one area to another and may include shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue.
  • Diameter Take note if it’s the size of a pencil eraser or larger.
  • Evolving If it looks different in size, shape or color than it did earlier.
  • (There should also be a “U,” but that would bollix the alphabet thing: U as in an “ugly duckling,” or a mole that looks different from the others.)

OK, I’ll do it. I’ll examine myself.

You say that, but according to a recent survey of 7,000 adults nationwide there’s a good chance you won’t: 28 percent of respondents said they never check themselves out. Nearly a third of the “I haven’ts” were men, nearly a third between 19 and 29 years of age.

Then I’ll go to a doctor.

The odds of that are even worse. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed had never been screened for skin cancer, a figure that jumps 10 percentage points for the 18-29 crowd.

Stop nagging.

We’re not nagging. We just worry about you.

Well … OK. Where can I go for more information?

Here. And thanks for asking.

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