Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know About Protecting Yourself From the Sun

Text By: Dr. Nina Radcliff/Feature Photo by Kimberly Cecchini

I received a disturbing message on Facebook recently. A nurse I used to work with informed me that she was diagnosed with skin cancer on her face and was scheduled for surgery to remove it. Additionally, because of the size of the cancer, the amount of skin that would need to be removed required “grafting” skin from another area of her body to “patch” up the “hole.” She asked me if I would write about it so hopefully others could prevent this from happening to them. Absolutely!

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, even above breast and prostate cancer. And skin cancer does kill: every 6 minutes one American dies from it. However, it is one of the most, if not the most, preventable type of cancer we face. It is estimated that over 90-95 percent of skin cancers can be prevented! Let’s take a look at what we can do to prevent it in ourselves, our children, and loved ones.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: To Avoid, Protect Against, and Block the Harmful Ultraviolet Radiation that causes skin cancer:

1. Avoid
o The sun’s ultraviolet rays are at their strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM. Whenever possible, schedule outdoor activities outside of those times.
o Tanning beds. A few months ago The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a “black-box warning” stating that tanning beds should not be used on persons under the age of 18 years. Studies show that when women use tanning beds more than once a month, they have a 55 percent increased risk of developing melanoma. And melanoma is the second most common cancer in women ages 20-29 years old!

2. Protect against
o Head. Our ears, nose, and neck are particularly vulnerable despite being easy to protect. Wear a hat with a broad brim, meaning at least 3 inches wide. Although baseball caps offer protection for the nose they do not provide protection for the ear and neck.
o Sunglasses. UV radiation can cause eye damage: cataracts, macular degeneration, and other conditions that can cause temporary vision loss. Sunglasses are available that can block 100 percent of UV rays.
o Seek out the shade. But remember that while this decreases the harmful effects of UV radiation, it does not completely prevent it. UV rays can reach our skin even when we are under a tree or umbrella on the beach. They can be reflected off of concrete or dry sand.

3. (Sun)Block
o Sunblock provides protection against the harmful effects of radiation. The term Sun Protection Factor, known as SPF, is the measure of the sunscreen or sunblock’s ability to prevent UV B damage to the skin. What does this mean? If we apply an SPF of 10, that means that it will take 10 times longer for our skin to burn than if we did not have any on. Experts recommend the following: Select a broad-spectrum product that protects against UV-A and UV-B light and has an SPF of 30 or more; apply 1 ounce, equivalent to a shot glass, to the entire body 30 minutes before going outside; and reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

Skin checks. It is recommended that we examine our skin head-to-toe every month and see our physician every year for a professional skin exam.

Special note on kids
o Babies under 6 months should never be exposed to direct sunlight. Use a stroller with a hood or canopy and cover their skin, including their arms and legs, with protective clothing. Pediatricians do not recommend using sunscreen or sunblock on babies.
o Children should be taught to practice sun protection from an early age. A bad sunburn can double their risk of developing cancer down the road.
o Be our kid’s role model. Children are like sponges and love to imitate. If they see us protecting ourselves, it is more likely that they will too.

Skin cancer does not discriminate. Although darker skin tones have more melanin which serves as a natural protection, it does not provide a bulletproof shield. Skin cancer affects all genders, skin tones, and ages.

My heart and prayers are with my friend and her surgery, all the physicians involved; (and that the surgeon is able to remove the entire cancer); and too, a speedy recovery. Her wish and hope is that my family, friends and readers can prevent this highly “preventable” cancer by avoiding, protecting against, blocking ultraviolet radiation and taking the steps to get checked. “It’s about focusing on the fight and not the fright.”~Robin Roberts

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Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.