RIVERSIDE — With skies clearing up and the sun starting to shine, it’s only natural for people to want to spend more time outdoors.
However, too much sun can cause just as much trouble as none at all.
“The sun, although something we really enjoy, is the cause of most cases of skin cancer,” said Dr. Victor Marks, director of dermatology for Geisinger Health System.
While some lesser forms of skin cancer rarely kill and don’t spread, there is a dangerous, deadly form known as melanoma. While melanoma is one of the rarer forms of skin cancers it is “increasing tremendously in numbers,” said Marks.
One of melanoma’s most famous symptoms is that of the “malignant mole,” which spreads across a larger section of the body. However, this cancer is curable if it is detected early, said Marks.
There are several easy ways for a person to protect themselves from the suns’ rays, and thereby from melanoma. First, people should seek shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their most intense, said Marks.
Also useful is protective clothing to block the skin. ”Our face, neck and ears get the brunt of sunlight,” said Marks. “Probably the most effective thing is a broad-brimmed hat.”
Sunglasses are also important, as they can prevent the development of cataracts due to exposure to ultraviolet light.
A lightweight, long-sleeved shirt can also be helpful, as can broad-spectrum sunscreen. Broad-spectrum screens are ones that absorb two types of ultra-violet rays, instead of just one. Sunscreen should also be of SPF 30 or greater. Its up to the individual whether they prefer a spray-on sunblock or a cream-based one, said Marks, as it should be important that it feel good on the skin.
When a person believes they have a possibly cancerous mole, there are several signs to watch out for, said Marks. If a mole is asymmetrical, has irregularly-edged borders, is more than one color, is larger than a pencil eraser or changes in any way over time, then it is likely to be melanoma, he said.
Marks recommended people check their bodies at least twice a year for any potentially cancerous moles.
“Melanoma is curable if found early,” said Marks.
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