Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR
Last Modified: January 27, 2002
Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I have just finished my radiotherapy to my breast and would like to know if I can be exposed to the sun. I'm asking because I live in South America and now it's summer down here. I used to go to the beach every year, and I don't know if I can. My oncologist was not clear at this topic.
Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:
Patients who have undergone radiation treatment for breast cancer should be careful about sun exposure in the radiated areas, especially for the first few years after treatment. Areas of skin in the radiated fields will react more easily to sun exposure than areas of non-radiated skin. Patients who have undergone chest wall radiation are even more likely to react to sun exposure. Significant sun exposure can cause a "recall" of the radiation skin reaction, even after the acute skin reaction has resolved. If a patient is going to be outside and exposed to the sun, then the radiated skin should be covered with clothing or covered with sun block of SPF 15 or higher. Although sun protection is especially important if the patient is currently undergoing a course of radiation treatment, sun protection is also prudent for the first few years after radiation treatment.