Did you know that skin is THE largest organ in your body? Did you know that skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer? Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells and most often develop on areas of the skin exposed to the sun’s rays. It can affect people of ALL races and colors. A person with lighter complexion sunburn easily and have a much higher risk. Approximately 5 million cases are diagnosed in the US, but it is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. People who have dark skin tones often believe they’re not at risk for skin cancer, but that is a very dangerous misconception. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma is more deadly in people of color. Unfortunately, African American patients are more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages, have the worst prognosis and the lowest overall survival rate. That is alarming.

Roughly about 90% of non melanoma skin cancers and 85% of #melanoma are associated with exposure to UV rays from the sun. As a disclaimer, I am not a Dermatologist, but as an Emergency Physician (ER Doctor) there are many skin disorders that I see at my Emergency Department daily which I may recommend my patients to follow up with a Board Certified Dermatologist. In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness month, Dr. Michelle Henry dropped some gems on the prevention of skin cancer and how to build your perfect skin on my show “The Visit" Episode #3. 

With summer around the corner, you may be one of the many persons excited about getting the perfect tan and might not realized how damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays are. A tan is a sign that your skin has been injured. If you are exposed to the sun’s UV rays or doing indoor tanning at a salon, your skin has been injured. The more your skin is exposed to these rays, the more the damage builds. The more damage builds, the skin aging process speeds up and increase your risk for all types of skin cancer especially to the most deadliest form of cancer, melanoma. However, skin cancers can develop in areas hidden from the sun. There is no safe way to tan your skin without exposing it to the damage from the sun’s UV rays.

What kind of skin cancer symptoms to look for? A regular examination of the skin for any new or unusual growths, bleeding, itching, changes in size, shape or color of an existing spot is ultimate key to detecting and treating skin cancers. It is important to examine your legs, trunk, arms, face and neck. It is also imperative to look for signs of skin cancer in the genitalia, between the eyes, toes, underneath the the nails, palms of the hands and soles of the feet. If the spot looks odd, please visit your primary care physician or a Board Certified Dermatologist for further evaluation. UV rays are very difficult to avoid. Our skin cells (melanocytes) exposed to UV light produces melanin. Melanin then absorbs this source of light and helps the skin from burning. However, too much skin exposure to UV rays can cause serious damage as mentioned earlier. There are ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer. 

  • As mentioned earlier, perform regular skin self-exams to detect skin cancer early
  • Between the hours of 10 am -2 pm, the sun’s rays are the strongest. Please seek shade when appropriate.

  • Do your best to wear protective clothing.  Lightweight pants, lightweight long-sleeved shirt, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat is great when possible.

  • Please invest in purchasing a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. This provides protection from UVA and UVB rays.

  • Apply sunscreen whenever you are going to be outdoors. Make sure to apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. 

  • It is recommended to apply sunscreen every two hours especially after sweating, exercising outdoors or swimming.

  • Avoid tanning beds…PLEASE?! 

  • Sand at the beach reflects the sun’s rays. This can increase your chance of sunburn. Please apply sunscreen and wear protective eyewear.

  • If you notice a new or unusual spot on your skin, please see a Board-Certified Dermatologist as soon as possible.

Some sunscreens can prevent sunburn, reduce your risk of getting skin cane and help prevent early signs of skin aging. So please do your skin a favor, invest purchasing a sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, eyewear and have a hearty talk with your primary care physician or dermatologist about which ones to use. I am going to make sure that I buy a sunscreen for myself because next week I will be on the beach in Mexico soaking up those UV rays.