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Be Careful Having Too Much Fun Under the Sun

As summer approaches on June 20 and sunnier and warmer temperatures dominate our weather, many people can hardly wait to frolic outdoors more often, enjoying more time walking, biking, hiking, camping and swimming.

If you plan to enjoy outdoor activities, however, remember that spending too much time in the sun and its harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can have serious implications and can cause skin cancer, a potentially deadly disease.

The Skin Cancer Foundation notes the following:

  1. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70.
  2. More than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour.
  3. Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk of melanoma.
  4. When detected early, the five-year survival rate of melanoma is 99%.

The Skin Cancer Foundation also offers the following troubling statistics:

· An estimated 200,340 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S in 2024.

· Between 2014 and 2024, the number of new invasive melanoma cases diagnosed annually increased by 23%.

· An estimated 8,290 people will die from melanoma in 2024.

· The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun. In fact, one UK study found that about 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

“It’s easy for us to get lost in the fun and forget that spending too much time in the sun without protecting our skin is hazardous to our health,” said Dr. Evette Ramsay, chief of dermatology at Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park. “That’s why it’s so important for all of us to enjoy summer activities without putting our health at-risk. We can do so by taking some simple precautionary measures.”

Kaiser Permanente member Craig Camacho is a great example of why early diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer frequently leads to great outcomes.

Camacho discovered a dark spot on his shoulder but figured it would just go away. “It turned into a growth and got bigger but never caused any pain or discomfort, so I didn’t worry about it,” said the South Bay resident.

Less than one month after the initial diagnosis, Camacho completed a successful surgery at the Kaiser Permanente Ambulatory Surgery Unit in Carson. “They called me to tell me they got it all removed,” he recalls. “It gave me such peace of mind, and I was really impressed with the whole experience.”

Camacho’s story is a timely reminder to apply sunscreen regularly, wear sun protection (hats, sunglasses, etc.), keep up on your dermatology screenings, and get suspicious moles or growths checked as soon as possible.

To reduce your chances of getting skin cancer, Dr. Ramsay stressed the importance of using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher when spending time outdoors. It’s also important to use broad spectrum sunscreens that offer both UVA and UVB coverage, as they both can cause skin cancer. Additionally, sunscreen should be reapplied about every two hours or more frequently if you’re in the water or perspiring due to exercise or other outdoor activity.

Dr. Ramsay recommended you should consider taking the following steps to protect yourself and your loved ones against melanoma.

  1. Avoid the sun during its peak hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  2. Understand that sand, water and snow can reflect 85% of the sun’s rays.
  3. Don’t forget your eyes and your lips! To protect your eyes, wear sunglasses capable of blocking 99% of UVA and UVB radiation. There are also many lip balms available with SPF.
  4. Make clothing a regular part of protection. When possible, wear long sleeves and a wide brimmed hat. Wear clothing with the UPF label that helps protect against UV radiation.
  5. Because their skin is more sensitive, completely shield the skin of babies younger than 6 months from the sun.

“Taking these simple but important precautions will help protect your skin and keep it looking healthy as you age,” Dr. Ramsay said. “Also, be on the lookout for any new spots or growths on your skin that are changing. If they change rapidly, itch or bleed, this could be an early sign of skin cancer, and you should consult with your healthcare provider. The earlier skin cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of a full recovery.”

Kaiser Permanente offers tips on skin cancer prevention, as well as skin care instructions.