Skin cancer screenings and sunscreen: Why they’re (still) so important for good health


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Summer may be coming to an end soon, but many of us are spending a lot of time outdoors, including at the beach, golf course, tennis court, and park.

It is important to protect ourselves against damaging summer rays, especially if we postpone our routine check-ups due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Regardless of skin tone, everyone is susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun, health experts shared with Fox News Digital.

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Taking steps to protect our skin from sun exposure can reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging like age spots, wrinkles and sagging, she said.

Doctors recommend that when we book time at the beach or golf course — or wherever we go — be sure to book a routine skin check with our dermatologist. Also, we should always bring (and use) the right sunscreen.

It’s important to check our skin regularly – and always use sunscreen when outdoors.
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“I recommend an annual exam, which should include a full-body exam, from scalp to toes.” Dr. David J. Leffel, MD, David Paige Smith Professor of Dermatology and Chief of Surgery at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., told Fox News Digital.

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“It’s important for everyone to get checked, especially if there’s a history of sunburn as a child or if we work in the sun or participate in recreational activities,” he said.

Also, if we are fair skinned, have light hair and blue/green eyes – these are additional reasons to check.

Dr. Anthony M. Rossi, MD, specializes in dermatology, cosmetic and laser surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

One surgeon explained that while everyone should be up to date on skin checks, these checks are especially important for some individuals, especially those with a history of melanoma or skin cancer — as well as other factors.

One surgeon explained that while everyone should be up to date on skin checks, these checks are especially important for some individuals, especially those with a history of melanoma or skin cancer — as well as other factors.
(iStock)

Assistant Attending Surgeons While annual skin examinations are important for all individuals, “Skin checks are important for certain subgroups of people — people with a personal history of melanoma or skin cancer, those with a strong family history of melanoma, individuals with multiple moles or red head phenotypes, and those with a new or rapidly changing lesion.”

A dermatology practice is booking months in advance due to an influx of calls trying to schedule their annual exam.

Jen Black, who works at Wesson Dermatology in Great Neck, NY, told Fox News Digital that many patients have put off getting skin exams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Black said the surge in patients has returned, adding that people now feel safe getting tested. A dermatology practice is booked up for months due to an influx of calls trying to schedule their annual exam.

How to find suspicious sites

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) estimates that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer — but if caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable.

Annual skin checks with your dermatologist are important, as early detection can save your life.

Annual skin checks with your dermatologist are important, as early detection can save your life.
(iStock)

The main types of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Melanoma is less common but can invade tissues and spread to other parts of the body, according to the AAD. According to the National Cancer Institute, most deaths from skin cancer are caused by melanoma.

“My rule of thumb is, ‘When in doubt, check it out’.”

Dermatologists say it’s important to do self-skin checks to identify suspicious spots that need further evaluation by your doctor.

Dr. Leffel told Fox Digital News, “Any mole that changes color, shape or size or appears to be growing should be examined.”

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Often, patients have their own meaning, which doesn’t seem right, he said.

“Obviously, any ulcer that doesn’t heal after 4-6 weeks, or comes back after healing, should be evaluated by a dermatologist or general practitioner,” he said. “My rule of thumb is ‘when in doubt, check it out’.”

How to do a self check

The American Academy of Dermatology offers the following tips on how to perform a self-skin check.

Check your body in a full-length mirror

Check your body front and back in the mirror

Raise your arms and look to the right and left sides

Look at your arms, forearms and palms

Look at the front and back of the legs, the spaces between the toes, and the soles of your feet

Check the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair to get a closer look at your scalp.

Use a hand mirror to check your back and butt

Choosing between sunscreen vs. sunblock

Regardless of skin tone, everyone is susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun, say dermatologists.

The AAD says it’s important to apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every two hours or after swimming and sweating.

Leaving a sunscreen container on a hot setting can degrade the product's effectiveness, the FDA and Dr.  Anna Guanche tells Fox News.

Leaving a sunscreen container on a hot setting can degrade the product’s effectiveness, the FDA and Dr. Anna Guanche tells Fox News.
(iStock)

Dr. Sunscreen and sunblock are two terms used to denote a chemical filter in sun protection products. Rossi said.

Chemical sunscreen typically contains chemical filters called avobenzone and oxybenzone, said a Memorial Sloan Kettering surgeon, while sunblocks use a physical blocking mineral-based filter, such as zinc or titanium oxides.

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“We mainly use the word sunscreen and refer to both physical and chemical,” Rossi said to help clarify.

“I prefer mineral sunscreens, historically known as sunblock. The two minerals are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide,” she said, “and they both protect in the UVB and UVA range.”

“Heavy, thick sunscreens are less desirable than lighter-touch sunscreens.”

If you choose a chemical-based sunscreen, it’s broad spectrum for both UVA and UVB coverage, he said.

Dr. Rossi, who is also the founder of the Rossi Derm MD skincare line, said mineral sunblocks are less irritating.

“Chemical filters are the most common culprits of irritation and allergy to sunscreen. They can be irritating to some people. If you’re using sunscreen and it stings or irritates, it’s probably a chemical sunscreen, so you should try a mineral. Based on one,” Rossi told Fox News Digital.

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Sunscreen products protect against skin cancer but also prevent photoaging from UV and hyperpigmentation from UV exposure, Rossi said.

Rossi cautions, “UVA can pass through clouds and even window glass! This is especially important for patients with hyperpigmentation problems after conditions like inflammation or melasma.”

Doctors say use SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreens — and actually apply it on the skin.

Seek shade when the sun is strongest, especially between 10 am and 2 pm.

“What’s more important is whether a particular sunscreen is good enough on the skin that the person uses it regularly,” Leffel said. “Heavy, thick sunscreens are less desirable than lighter-touch sunscreens.”

If a person is concerned about the chemicals in sunscreen, “zinc oxide — that’s a mineral sunscreen product,” he said.

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In addition to applying sunscreen, it’s important to wear sun-protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses when spending time outdoors this summer, the AAD says.

The association recommends seeking shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is strongest.





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