Back to home May 2014
Regional Cancer Center
Be Sun Smart to Prevent Skin Cancer
“In the United States, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. In fact, new skin cancer cases exceed the number of new breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined—and the numbers keep rising. Marie Hepp, ARNP, oncology education and survivorship coordinator at the Regional Cancer Center, says the only safe tan is one from self-tanning lotions or sprays, or no tan at all—going natural.
“When we see tanned skin, what we are actually seeing is UV light damage to the skin cell’s DNA,” Marie says. “The damage to the DNA causes the release of an enzyme that changes the color of the skin. The enzyme is the body’s way to protect itself from the sun exposure, but repeated exposure and damage to the DNA creates mutated genes— or cancer. So, a tan really equals damage, but people don’t think of it that way.”
Marie says in subtropical Southwest Florida we only need 10 minutes in the sun to get the vitamin D our bodies need to function, and we get that even on cloudy days. Many people get much more than that from being outside or going to tanning beds, but Marie urges people to opt for sunless tanning products if they seek a darker complexion. “To date there isn’t any evidence-based research that sunless tanning lotions or sprays cause any kinds of cancer,” she says.
But, if you enjoy spending time outdoors or you work outside, make sure to generously apply broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15-30 to all exposed skin and the lips. Marie reminds you to apply sunscreen to the tops of the ears, tip of the nose and to the top of the head—especially if you are bald. Wearing sun protective clothing and hats also are good options. And, it is important to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours to newly-exposed skin and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
Protecting our eyes also is important and Marie suggests looking for sunglasses that provide more protection on the sides and top of the eyes/eyebrows. “I wear glasses, so I have a pair of fit-over sunglasses—they fit over my glasses and provide the most protection,” she says.
Being sun smart means avoiding tanning beds and excessive sun exposure and always using sunscreen
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Regional Cancer Center
8931 Colonial Center Drive
Fort Myers, FL 33905