Fun in the sun is part of the Central Coast lifestyle and there’s no shortage of things to do outdoors.
But exposure to the sun also carries a risk.
“Skin cancer is almost always caused by sunshine”, said Santa Maria radiology oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Wu, “getting vitamin D from the sun is an important thing for us, in our society we have so much, we’re indoors so much, we’re sedentary so much, we actually might not be getting quite enough sunshine, but we also don’t want to be sun worshippers and laying out and being in tanning beds and things like that.”
“Melanoma is the third most common cancer, about one percent of all skin cancers, but its the most deadly with 98,000 cases diagnosed each year”, said Santa Barbara dermatologist Dr. Robert Leposavic, “every age group is at risk, it is more prevalent at age 57, but kids can have melanoma on any non-sun exposed areas even.”
Some are more at risk to skin cancer than others.
“Light skinned, fair-skinned, blue eyes, blonde hair, red hair”, Dr. Wu said, “when people have that type of genetic makeup, their body has a little bit higher likelihood of causing skin cancers.”
Knowing what to look for on your skin is also key in the battle against skin cancer.
“The early warning signs are you want to look for spots that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, changes in color throughout the spot”, added Dr. Leposavic, “anything larger than six millimeters or the size of a pencil eraser and anything that is changing or enlarging.”
Most people rely on sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun but the experts say it’s not always that simple.
“It does not provide complete protection”, Dr. Wu said, “but when you use something like SPF 30 and above you’re going to be blocking 98, 97 percent, maybe even 99 percent, of the UV rays that come from the sun, so it’s a filter and a very helpful filter.”
“When you put on half of the sunscreen on you only get a quarter of the SPF, so if you start with a 15 you might end up with a 3 or 4, if you start with a 50 you might end up with a 12 o3 13”, Dr. Leposavic said, “it’s important to either choose a larger number, to buy some error room, or to put a generous amount of sunscreen on which is about two tablespoons for the whole body.”
While there continue to be medical advances in the treatment of melanoma and skin cancer including surgery and radiation, the experts say early detection leads to the best outcomes.
“I think it’s important for patients at risk with a family history of melanoma or skin cancer or excessive sun exposure to have annual skin exams by dermatologists”, Dr. Leposavic said.
“The dermatologist visit or the primary care visit can actually be pretty quick”, added Dr. Wu, “to look at that lesion and see if it looks concerning or not, biopsied if necessary, but it can really save your life if you catch it early enough before these melanomas, for instance, spread and cause other problems.”
See full story here: http://www.keyt.com/health/skin-cancer-awareness-month-expert-advice/745325258