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Dangers of the Summer Sun

Guest : Patrick Carrington, MD
Summary: The hot summer sun can feel like such a relief after a long winter. But there are critical things to consider when it comes to the sun's rays.
Air Date: 6/6/14
Duration: 10
Host: Leigh Vinocur, MD
Dangers of the Summer Sun
Being out in the hot summer sun can feel like such a relief after a long, drawn-out winter.

But there are some critical things to consider when it comes to the sun's rays, and how exposure can increase your risk for skin cancer.

There are two primary types of cancers: melanoma and non-melanoma.

Non-melanoma includes basal cell carcinoma. With this type, you'll generally see a bump start to grow in sun-exposed areas of your body, oftentimes your face. The bump will grow very slowly with no other real symptoms and get wider and deeper as time goes on.

While these bumps can be removed successfully, doing so can be potentially disfiguring if not taken seriously.

There are actually 12-14 sub-types of this type of cancer. Some of them are more aggressive and can get to the bone or nervous system more quickly than others. People with Type-1 skin (always burn, never tan) and Type-2 skin (burn, sometimes tan) are primarily at risk.

Melanoma is one of the deadliest types of cancers. The trouble with melanoma is that it can metastasize to other bodily systems, such as your lymph nodes, brain, spleen, etc. For instance, if you haven't paid attention to a mole initially, it can enter a vertical growth phase where it reaches the lower level of the dermis and can enter the lymphatic system.

There is an easy way to remember how to look out for such moles, known as the ABCD (and sometimes E) rule.

  • Assymetry
  • Border is uneven
  • Color (brown, blue, white)
  • Diameter (greater than a pencil eraser)
  • Evolving, meaning the mole is changing

What are some key risk factors for developing a melanoma?

People who work inside and don't get out very much, then are exposed to the sun for an intense period of time are particularly at risk because they have then traumatized the skin, sometimes beyond repair. Also, as with the non-melanoma types of cancer, people with Type-1 and Type-2 skin are very much at risk.

If you often go to the beach, you're getting double exposure (the sand reflects the sun), and if you're someone who is constantly in the sun during the peak hours of 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., you are also in the high-risk group.

What are some ways you can prevent skin cancer?

Always wear sunscreen when exposed to the sun. Find a sunscreen you like, that you'll use all the time. Remember to apply an hour before you go out and every two hours after you've been out. And, use the recommended one (1) ounce per application.

Dr. Patrick Carrington joins Dr. Leigh to explain the differences in skin cancers, as well as provide tips for recognizing and addressing potential problem areas.