Regional Cancer Center ~ Erie, PA

Protection Against the Sun: Recognizing the Causes of Skin Cancer

Jul 02, 2016 | Posted in News, News and Tips for Healthy Living

The importance of skin protection lasts all year, but is especially prevalent during the sweltering summer months. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed, with Melanoma being the most serious type. To understand how to protect yourself against the disease, Christopher R. Marsh, M.D., Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at The Regional Cancer Center states it’s important to understand the causes.

“Overexposure to the sun’s rays is the most common cause for skin cancer, but Melanoma can even develop in non sun exposed areas of the body, as well.” states Dr. Marsh, “Exposure to both UVA and UVB rays is dangerous to the skin, which can also be found in tanning beds. In fact, this type of exposure increases risk for Melanoma by 75%, as it is an artificial source of light and emits radiation faster than the sun in a more enclosed space.”

Too much exposure can also lead to an increase in skin aging, causing wrinkles, as well as sunburn, which increases risk for Melanoma. When your skin tans, your body is attempting to restore damaged skin pigment, or melanin, from UV rays, and every so often, moles can form. Although the majority of cancerous moles are black or brown in color, they can also be flesh-toned or various shades of red and purple. Having 100 moles or more on the body greatly increases the risk for Melanoma.

“As time moves forward, the rate of developing new drugs to treat Melanoma, and other skin cancers, has expanded,” says Dr. Marsh.

It is important to perform self exams, so be on the lookout for any new moles or changes in existing moles such as growth or discoloration. Lesions on the body that suddenly become itchy or begin to bleed can also be worrisome. Dr. Marsh suggests that any cause for concern should be directed to a family doctor or dermatologist immediately. The sooner something is found, the better.

Any type of UV exposure, whether it is from the sun or from artificial light such as tanning beds, can have negative effects. “Vitamin D is still a necessity of course, but there are many safer ways to receive Vitamin D while continuing to protect your skin. This vitamin can be taken through supplements and can even be found in a variety of foods, many of which you are most likely already consuming.” Dr. Marsh adds it is best to consult your doctor to ensure you are getting the proper amounts of Vitamin D from safer sources.

“Although there is a wide range of systemic therapy treatments and new developing drugs to fight against Melanoma, the best prevention of skin cancer of any kind is vigilant skin protection.” By taking the time to use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection all year round, that is a giant step toward prevention and protection.

Applying sunscreen daily and frequent visits to the dermatologist are extremely important in order to prevent the disease altogether or to catch it in its infancy. Education and awareness of skin protection has really progressed throughout the years, so with these simple steps to protect your skin and the greater knowledge of skin care and UV rays, you can most definitely save your skin and beat the heat.

Christopher R. Marsh, M.D. Medical Oncology and Hematology

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