Want to Look Younger and Live Longer, Respect the Sun, Gene B. Saylors, MD

  • Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gene B. Saylors, MD    

What if I told you that I can make you look ten years younger and greatly reduce your chance of getting cancer? No gimmicks, it is as simple as limiting your sun exposure. I’m not here to tell you to stay inside, far from it, as I am a big believer in being active and enjoying the outdoors. It is all about being careful and knowing how to avoid getting burned.

Most important is not getting skin cancer and as little as one serious sunburn can greatly increase your risk. Over two million patients are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States, and rates are increasing annually. There are three types: basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma.

All are curable if found early enough, but many are found too late and could have been prevented. Melanoma is the type that is most dangerous due to its propensity to spread to internal organs. Unfortunately, melanoma is also the subtype that is rapidly rising and the number one cause of death of young adults. According to a recent study from the Mayo Clinic, women between 18-39 have seen an 800% increase in the rate of melanomas in the last 40 years.

Sun exposure also ages you. Tanning makes people feel “healthy” but it is very damaging to the skin. There is no healthy tan. Collagen and elastin are destroyed which leads to wrinkles that no creams can reverse. The way to look as youthful as possible is to take daily precautions.

The most effective way to enjoy the sun is to wear proper attire and use sunscreen with precision. SPF 30 or more is best. Don’t pay for SPF above 50 as it doesn’t make a difference. What does matter is that sunscreen is reapplied every 90 minutes; especially if swimming or sweating. And use a lot. Most people don’t apply enough. Use at least two ounces – about as much as a shot glass would hold. If you apply half of that, you are not protected and may end up with patches of burned skin.

Sun damage is cumulative, but it is never too late to protect yourself and your family.

Changes you are seeing in your skin now are likely from sun exposure ten or twenty years ago. So protect your children now. Keep them covered with clothing as much as possible, and remember to reapply their sunscreen hourly and each time they get out of the water.

If possible, everyone should get an annual skin exam. If this is not possible, please at least do your own exams and see a doctor for any mole on your body that changes.

The acronym to remember is ABCDE:
• Asymmetry (one side looks different from the other)
• Border (edges are irregular instead of smooth)
• Color (has areas that are black or varying shades of brown)
• Diameter (bigger than a pencil eraser)
• Evolving (getting bigger)

The best treatment is prevention of skin cancer in the first place. This is the season of long daylight hours so consider avoiding the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must be out there – be careful and remind your friends and family to reapply the sunscreen.

Sponsored by: Roper St. Francis Healthcare

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