Hopefully, you remember your sunscreen when you head out to the swimming pool or a day on the water. But just because swim season is over doesn’t mean you can let your guard down when it come to preventing skin cancer.
“I understand how people would not want to put sunscreen on in the wintertime,” says Clint Tucker, MD, FAAD at Advanced Dermatology and Dermaesthetics. “But even the incidental outdoor exposure that you get, like going from the car to the grocery store, can be a risk.”
Even though the body is bundled up in coats and hats, the vulnerable face and neck are just as susceptible to sun damage in the winter as they are in the summer.
“It’s definitely important to continue taking precautions,” Tucker advises. He recommends wide-brimmed hats, athletic clothing with built-in sun protection and limiting sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“We always like to recommend sunscreen at least once a day with SPF 30 or higher,” he says. “Your head and neck areas are still going to accumulate quite a bit of exposure. Even being in the car driving to work, damaging UV rays come through the window.”
He continues, “We recommend wide-brimmed hats to protect the ears and the back of the neck. Remember when you wear a ball cap to put some sunscreen on the top of the ears and the back of the neck.”
Skin cancer remains the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States. Statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that the rate of new melanoma diagnoses was 14 percent higher in Kentucky than the national average from 2002 to 2006, and the state ranked sixth highest in deaths from the disease in that same period.
The more serious melanomas can be fatal if left untreated, but even basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can be serious if left untreated.
“Many of the skin cancers that we see are very treatable with a high cure rate,” Tucker contends. “Melanomas have excellent cure rates if caught early.”
He advises everyone to pay attention to “new growths, or growths that are changing rapidly, any color change, bleeding or painful spots. When looking at moles, we’re more concerned with melanoma skin cancers.”
The American Academy of Dermatology’s website – aad.org – has a number of resources for those looking for information on everything from choosing the proper sunscreen to tips on spotting skin cancer. VT