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Sun Kissed or Sun Smacked?

Maximize Your Sun Enjoyment while Minimizing Your Potential Skin Damage
Published on 5/22/2014
Author: Melinda Riter, MD, PhD
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Woooooot! Spring has sprung and the sun is bathing the Gorge with bountiful bright photos.

I hope to see all of you out tramping the trails, blazing the bike paths, vetting the vineyards and grazing your gardens. You have adventures planned and your skin is going with you.

Now for the scare: More cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year than breast, lung, prostate and colon combined! Longer days give us the opportunity to get outside, but also expose us to damaging sunrays that will affect our skin for years.

The good news? You can protect yourself and your family by taking simple steps to minimize the damage. Worried about those days of baby oil and iodine years ago? Focus on early skin cancer detection.

  • Stock up and throw down
    Purchase a multi-pack of SPF 30+ sunscreens and stash them in your car, golf bag, backpack and out on your patio. Convenience is key.
  • Home base
    Apply a cream sunscreen before you leave the house in the morning to get a good foundation of coverage (this can double as your moisturizer), and touch up with a hands-free spray sunscreen during the day.
  • Check yourself
    Studies have shown that preventive routine skin exams reduce deaths from melanoma by catching cases early. Your family doctor can screen you quickly and get you to a dermatologist for a head-to- toe check.
  • Strut your stuff
    Your dermatologist is charged with checking you out — from the top of your scalp to between your toes. Make the most of your visit by removing nail polish/ makeup and making a list of any concerns.
  • Give it the sideways glance
    Be skeptical of any new spot on your skin that doesn’t heal, bleeds or is changing over time. Skin cancers are more prone to damage from minor trauma and may just seem like a stubborn sore.
  • Get physical
    With sunscreen that is. Physical sunblocks, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, actually reflect harmful rays away from your skin. Chemical sunscreens, like avobenzone, absorb the sun’s rays and undergo a chemical reaction to stop the ray. Allergy and irritation is more common with the chemical sunscreens, so stick with the mineral/physical blockers if you have sensitive skin.
  • The D dilemma
    Vitamin D is synthesized with UVB exposure, but those same rays have DNA-damaging effects that lead to skin cancer. Focus on dietary sources for the Vitamin D you need to protect your bones. Aim for 600 IU (International Units) a day for people between the ages of 1 and 70, and 800 IU a day for people ages 70 and older.
  • Spectral knowledge
    You want a sunscreen that covers both parts of the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. Think A for Aging (UVA) and B for Burn (UVB).
  • Its elementary
    Know your ABCDEs. Melanoma can be found by looking for moles with Asymmetry, irregular Borders, more than one Color, large Diameter, and Evolution over time.
  • Ugly duckling
    Have a mole that is not like the other ones? Melanoma can also be detected by finding a spot that doesn’t fit with the pattern of your other moles — have that funky fella checked out.

Your local dermatologist will always have your back — literally!

Dr. Melinda Riter is dermatologist in practice at Columbia Crest Dermatology in The Dalles. To make an appointment, please call 541.506.6930

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