Sun Protection Tips
James Metz, MD
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: June 12, 2003
The most common cancer diagnosed in the United States is skin cancer
. In 2003 there will be an estimated one million new cases of skin cancer. The most common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinomas occur on skin that has had significant exposure to ultraviolet light. It is typically treated with surgical resection. Radiation therapy may be used when surgery will cause disfigurement or there are high-risk features that make it likely to recur. There is a low risk for spread to lymph nodes or distant sites in the body. Squamous cell carcinomas of the skin also occur on sun exposed areas of the body. They are treated similarly to basal cell carcinomas. However, there is a slightly higher risk of spread to lymph nodes and distant sites. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are typically cured with local treatment when the disease is caught early.
Melanoma will account for approximately 54,200 new cases of skin cancer in 2003. Melanoma is a much more aggressive type of skin cancer. It can occur on areas of the body not exposed to ultraviolet light. It has a significantly higher risk of spread to lymph nodes and distant sites within the body. It is treated with much more aggressive surgery and sometimes lymph node dissection. Patients with advanced lesions may also receive chemotherapy or immunotherapy. The earlier the lesion is detected, the higher the cure rate.
The best way to avoid skin cancer is to protect oneself and loved ones from the rays of the sun. It is important to take precautions during every season of the year, not just summer. The following list will help reduce your risk of developing skin cancer:
- Avoid exposure to the sun during the peak hours of 11 AM - 3 PM
- Wear protective clothing during peak times of the day. Clothes should have tight weaves. Cotton T-shirts are only equivalent to a SPF-6 lotion.
- Wear a wide brim hat to protect your head
- Avoid tanning salons?The ultraviolet light from the tanning booths can cause skin cancer and make the skin age prematurely.
- Generously apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF. Utilize those sunscreens that are water-resistant if you plan to swim or exercise.
- Utilize sun protection on cloudy days because UV light passes through clouds
- Avoid any sun exposure if you are taking medications that increase your sun sensitivity
- Make sure to wear sun protection while skiing?Snow reflects the light and the intensity of the suns rays increases at high altitudes.
- Always get new skin lesions checked by a physician promptly