All Posts tagged skin cancer

Doc Talk: Got sunscreen?

By Kristen Coburn, C-FNP

Kristen Coburn head shot

Kristen Coburn, C-FNP

It’s shaping up to be another hot week here in the valley. Forecasters are predicting temperatures in the 80s and 90s and plenty of sunshine … what more could we ask for on a holiday weekend?

If you plan on spending time outdoors enjoying the sun, catching some of the Independence Day activities, or even doing yard work, make sure you drink plenty of water and take care of your skin.

Sunscreen is one of the best protections against damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB. Ultraviolet radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, making it invisible to the naked eye. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is the longer wave UV that causes skin damage, skin aging and may cause skin cancer. Ultraviolet B (UVB) is the shorter wave UV ray that causes sunburn, skin damage and may cause skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Facts

 

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB and UVA from damaging the skin. Here’s how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer or about 5 hours. Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB (with many brands also touting UVA protection) however, it may be overly optimistic to rely on 5 hours of continuous protection after one application.

Another way to look at it is in terms of percentages: SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVA/UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 screens out 98 percent. These numbers may seem like negligible differences, but if you are light-sensitive or have a history of skin cancer, those extra percentages will make a difference. And as you can see, no sunscreen can block all UV rays.

Be aware that there are problems with the SPF model: First, no sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be expected to stay effective longer than two hours without reapplication. Second, “reddening” of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting. UVA radiation is more detectable over time, showing up as pre-aging of the skin via wrinkles, discolorations, and coarse texture. Plenty of damage can be done without the red flag of sunburn being raised.

Who should use sunscreen?

Anyone over the age of six months should use a sunscreen daily. Even those who work inside are exposed to ultraviolet radiation for brief periods throughout the day, especially if they work near windows, which generally filter out UVB but not UVA rays.

Children under the age of six months should not be exposed to the sun, since their skin is highly sensitive to the chemical ingredients in sunscreen as well as to the sun’s rays. Shade and protective clothing are the best ways to protect infants from the sun.

What type of sunscreen should I use?

Which sunscreen you choose depends on how much sun exposure you’re anticipating. In all cases we recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen offering protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Many after-shave lotions and moisturizers have a sunscreen (usually SPF 15 or greater) already in them, and this is sufficient for everyday activities with a few minutes here and there in the sun. However, if you work outside or spend a lot of time outdoors, you need stronger, water-resistant, beachwear-type sunscreen that holds together on your skin. The “water resistant” and “very water resistant” types are also good for hot days or while playing sports, because they’re less likely to drip into your eyes when you sweat. However, these sunscreens may not be as good for everyday wear. They are stickier, don’t go as well with makeup, and need to be reapplied every two hours.

When shopping for sunscreen, consumers should look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, which is awarded to sun protective products that meet stringent criteria for safety and effectiveness.

Despite recent claims about sunscreen safety, consumers should rest assured that sunscreen products and specifically the ingredients oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, are safe and effective when used as directed. Of course, some people may be allergic or sensitive to the ingredients. In those instances, a healthcare professional can help recommend alternatives.

Sunscreens should be considered a vital part of a comprehensive sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade, covering up with clothing including a wide brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, avoiding tanning and UV tanning booths.

Kristen Coburn, FNP is a family practice physician who sees patients at Driggs and Victor Health Clinics. She also provides aesthetic treatments including free consultations, Botox and physician-recommended skincare products at Teton Valley Hospital’s Aesthetics Clinic

This article orignally appeared in the Teton Valley News.

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Doc Talk: Don’t get burned — Be kind to your skin

Skin Cancer: The facts
• Skin cancers are common in our community due to our high altitude
• Changes in moles or wounds that do not heal require medical attention
• Prevention is important; if you work or play outside, sunblock is critical and should be reapplied every two hours
• These cancers don’t go away, they only get worse, and are harder to treat when ignored

Q. What is the largest organ in the human body?
A. The skin

Dr. George Linhardt

Dr. George Linhardt

Your skin covers a large surface area and is subject to scrapes, cuts, sun, snow, hot sidewalks and spills of all types. It’s important that we don’t overlook our skin when considering our overall health.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and living in a high altitude, sunny environment puts us at a greater risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Sun exposure – spending a lot of time outdoors
  • Blistering sunburns – if you experienced several blistering sunburns as a child or teen
  • Skin color – if you have fair skin, blond, red or light brown hair, blue eyes or freckles
  • Artificial tanning – if you use tanning booths, beds or sunlamps

With all that we know about what can cause skin cancer, gone should be the days of baby oil , a book, and a day in the sun.

While there are several kinds of skin cancer, these can be divided into three common types:

Basal cell cancer – This type of cancer is locally aggressive, meaning if you leave it alone, it will just get bigger. It may not spread to other organs but may be become more and more difficult to treat, becoming unsightly, bleeding and disfiguring. Local excision (conservative surgical removal) is the usual treatment. Depending on the location, other approaches may be used such as medication or freezing with liquid nitrogen. These cancers may appear as chronically flaking skin or a sore that will not heal or constant bleeding.

Squamous cell cancers are more aggressive and can spread to other parts of the body and lymph glands. They can appear as a non-healing or bleeding ulcer. They may have a ridge around the center that is raised. A low volcano may be a good analogy of what these look like. Unlike the basal cells, the surgery needs to be more aggressive with a larger margin clear edges) around the specimen. The skin cancer and the surrounding edges may be checked at the time of the surgery with a frozen section (immediate analysis) or await the final definitive examination. It is important not to ignore these as they can grow in locations that may make treatment very difficult and disfiguring as well as life threatening. Sometimes plastic and reconstructive surgery is required to properly treat these cancers.

Melanoma is the third type of skin cancer and is becoming more prevalent. It is usually dark , and irregular. A crushed black berry on the skin is a good description. It is often raised above the level of the skin, various shades of color. It is can be seen on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Any dark moles in these areas are reason for serious concern. Melanomas can be slow growing or rapidly spread and cause death. They can spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or in the groin. They can be found on the trunk as well as the arms and legs. They are categorized as to how thick they measure under the microscope as well as what levels of the skin they penetrate. Deeper and thicker melanomas require the lymph nodes to be evaluated as well.

Dr. Linhardt is a general surgeon offering services weekly at Driggs Health Clinic and Teton Valley Hospital. To learn more about Dr. Linhardt, please click here or www.georgelinhardtmd.com.

 

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