A great Beatle’s tune and something that many of us look forward to in the “Merry, Merry Month of May” (and probably even more so this year!) But, as we enjoy the Sun’s light and warmth and getting outside more, are we also protecting ourselves from the Sun? The Sun, in addition to providing us with light and warmth also emits a lot of ultraviolet radiation. This comes in 3 categories, A, B, and C, but only A and B reach our skin surface:
Ultraviolet B represents about 5% of solar radiation and is associated with sunburn, inflammation, hyperpigmentation (yes those “sun spots” have a big fancy name also) and skin cancer.
Ultraviolet A (95%) leads to tanning but also photoaging, meaning wrinkles, thinning, and irregularity, and solar elastosis (fancy word for sagging) as well as skin cancer.
Skin cancer, divided into two basic types:
- NM SC (nonmelanoma skin cancer)
- M SC (melanoma skin cancer)
Nonmelanoma skin cancer, two basic types:
- Squamous Cell
- Basal Cell
Squamous cell: Typically, red and scaly with a slightly raised area. Generally, have a low risk for metastases (2-5%) but high enough that you want to get rid of them
Basal cell: Typically, are nodular, “pearly“ (look like a pearl), with tiny blood vessels going into them, but can have a shiny flat appearance or even present as an ulcer. Low risk of metastases but tends to cause a lot of local skin damage which makes it a good idea to get rid of them also.
An individual can usually treat both the above with a variety of methods depending on size and location (can be treated with laser methods as well!)
If you have a concerning lesion on your skin, come see me or one of my colleagues and we can evaluate for diagnosis as well as discuss treatment options with you.
Melanoma: (The scary/bad one)
If you have a concerning lesion, I can evaluate this as well. Typically, we consider a biopsy of these and then subsequent referral as these require more aggressive treatment. Prognosis depends on the stage and other factors. In contrast to the nonmelanoma skin cancers, these are approached much like other nonskin cancers.
Risk factors for melanoma:
- Fair skin
- red/blonde hair
- light eye color
- loss of moles already
- sun and tanning booth exposure
- frequent sunburns (especially as a child/teenager)
- decreased immune system
Of course, we can’t forget the ABCDE of Melanoma:
A for asymmetry
B for border irregularity
C for change in color
D for diameter greater than or equal to 6 mm
E for evolution, meaning recent change in size, shape, or color or a new lesion
If it looks funny have it checked out!
For any of the above, prevention far exceeds treatment (which leaves scars and stuff and with melanoma can be life-threatening). Use a sunscreen with a “broad-spectrum” coverage (which means that it blocks both UVA and UVB) with an SPF greater > or = 15 for daily use (yes that even means in the winter!) SPF > or = 30 for intense exposure (Beach, golfing, out in the sun between 10 and 4 in the summer). Wear hats, sunglasses, UV protective clothing whenever possible. Try to avoid outdoor activities in direct sunlight between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. in the summer.
ENJOY THE WARMTH AND LIGHT OF THE SUN BUT STAY AWAY FROM ITS “RADIATION”
HAVE A SAVE AND ENJOYABLE SUMMER