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Board-certified dermatologist discusses how people can protect themselves from the sun
ROSEMONT, Ill. (May 23, 2023) — Andy Jacobs spent a lot of time playing outdoor sports during his childhood, but infrequently used sun protection. Yet it came as a shock to Jacobs when his dermatologist diagnosed a spot on his knee as melanoma 10 years ago, and a second spot on his right ear as melanoma five years later.
“When I was a kid, I threw caution to the wind when I was outside,” Jacobs said. “I was putting sunscreen on occasionally, but not on a consistent basis.”
A recent American Academy of Dermatology survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults revealed that 90% of Americans report protecting themselves from the sun when going to beaches or pools, but far fewer plan for it before other outdoor activities that expose them to the sun’s harmful rays. In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, the AAD is encouraging the public to #PracticeSafeSun to reduce their risk of skin cancer.
“The head, neck, arms, and lower legs are areas of the body that get a lot of day-to-day exposure to the sun,” said board-certified dermatologist Anisha Patel, MD, FAAD, associate professor at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “That continued exposure, even without an apparent sunburn, can lead to skin cancer if people do not properly protect themselves.”
The AAD survey showed that 40% of adults do not plan for sun protection when going to BBQs or picnics, and 31% do not protect themselves when going for walks or hiking in warm weather.
“I tell my patients that they should think about sun exposure from the moment that they leave their homes, and that they’re even getting exposure while they’re driving,” said Dr. Patel. “I recommend that they keep a few basic items that they know they’ll use — like sunscreen, a hat, and a long-sleeved shirt — in their car, purse, or backpack. Those few key items can make a huge difference.”
To protect yourself from the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer, the AAD and Dr. Patel recommend that people:
Seek shade. Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You can also look at your shadow. Any time your shadow appears shorter than you, seek shade.
Wear sun-protective clothing. Wear a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.
Apply sunscreen. Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
Since his melanoma diagnosis and treatment, Andy Jacobs says he always applies sunscreen before going outdoors, wears sun-protective clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat. When his family visits a beach, Andy makes it a habit to sit under a tent.
“It’s important for people to know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, but it is also one of the most preventable cancers,” said Dr. Patel. “Just like brushing your teeth is a healthy daily habit, people should think about using sun protection anytime they’re outside. If you notice any new spots on your skin, any spots that look different from the others, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist.”
To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.
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Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,800 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care because skin, hair, and nail conditions can have a serious impact on your health and well-being. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow @AADskin on Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube and @AADskin1 on Instagram.
Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.