Posts Tagged ‘sunscreen’

Take Steps to Prevent Skin Cancer

Skin ExamI am a dermatologist in the Emory Clinic and my focus is medical dermatology with a monthly melanoma clinic. I see patients of all skin types but a large part of my practice is seeing patients for total body skin exams (TBSE). We recommend that patients with all skin types get a total body skin exam, but patients who have a family history of melanoma, atypical mole syndrome or non-melanoma skin cancer should be particularly proactive about scheduling their skin checks. As a broad rule, once a year skin checks should suffice. These checks become more frequent in patients who have a personal history of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer.

A skin exam entails wearing a gown at the dermatologist’s office and getting all parts of your skin looked at for moles that may appear abnormal or growths that may be non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell skin cancer or squamous cell skin cancer. If we see anything suspicious, the spot is biopsied, which involves removing a small sample of skin tissue. It takes five minutes or less to perform a biopsy and the results are usually available in a few days.

During this visit, we educate patients to be good about self-examination. I recommend that patients pick the first of every month and put it on their calendar to examine their skin head to toe. They should look for any changing moles or any new bumps that may have come up. It can be difficult to know what to worry about or not, but in general a melanoma can show up as a new mole or a changing or bleeding mole. A basal or squamous cell generally presents as a new bump or flat lesion that can bleed, or hurt, or just be new and growing. If you are worried about something, you should make an appointment to be checked by your dermatologist right away.

Sun protection is a big part of preventing skin cancers. The AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) recommends everyone use sunscreen that is broad spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB), has a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater and is water resistant. And you need to apply an adequate amount of sunscreen for it to be effective: generally one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) for the exposed parts of your body for each application. This needs to be repeated every 2 hours on continued sun exposure. Remember to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors.

You can use any type of sunscreen that works for you, such as lotions, creams, gels, sticks or even sprays. Sprays, though, have the disadvantage of accidental inhalation and it’s sometimes hard to know when using a spray if you have applied an adequate amount.

Tanning bed use has been proven to increase the risk of melanoma and also accelerate photo-aging. It should be avoided at all cost. Sunbathing and a history of blistering sunburns also increase your risk of skin cancer. It is very important to avoid the sun between 10 am and 2 pm, when the rays are the strongest, and to use additional protective clothing such as long sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

As you get ready for fun summer weekends, here’s a checklist to help you prevent skin cancer: avoid the sun when it’s at its strongest, use sunscreen and protective clothing any time you are out in the sun, never use a tanning bed, and when in doubt, check it out! Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist along with your annual physical visit, and for accurate information about safe sun practices, check the AAD website.

About Dr. Bhandarkar

Sulochana Bhandarkar, MDSulochana Bhandarkar, MD, is an assistant professor of dermatology at the Emory School of Medicine. She completed her medical school education from her home country, India, at Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore, where she also did a three-year dermatology residency with a special interest in vitiligo, a condition affecting skin pigmentation. After moving to the U.S., she did a clinical research fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, as well as a melanoma research fellowship at Emory University. She did her residency in dermatology at Emory University and became a faculty member at Emory in 2011. Her clinical interests are vitiligo and melanoma.

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Which Sunscreen Is Best?

Which Sunscreen is Best?Most of us know that wearing sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect our skin from damaging UV rays and prevent skin cancer. But with the plethora of sunscreen options out there, choosing a sunscreen can be more complicated than it should be. If you feel overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless SPF and UV protection options, not to worry! A recent New York Times article addressed changes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered sunscreen companies to incorporate into future product labeling.

As the occurrence of melanomas and other skin cancers continue to rise, awareness around proper use of sunscreen is more important now than ever. Approximately one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, making it the most common type of cancer in the United States. The three forms of skin cancer are distinguished by the types of cells affected: melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell. The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma; however, if caught early, it can be treated.

To prevent the misuse and confusion caused by misreading of sunscreen labels, the FDA has mandated that the following be included on every sunscreen product:

  • Listing of “broad spectrum protection,” meaning the sunscreen has been proved to protect against both UVA and UVB rays
  • Any product with an SPF lower than 15 must carry a label warning that it will not protect against skin cancer
  • Products cannot claim to be waterproof, only water-resistant, and labels must note a time limit before the sunscreen is ineffective
  • Manufacturers can still sell sunscreens with SPFs that exceed 50; however, the FDA is evaluating whether or not they should remain on the market

According to the New York Times article, the FDA also warns against the use of sunscreen sprays and powders, stating that there is not enough data to support the efficacy of these products on preventing sun damage, and that consumers should be cautious of products with endorsements and seals of approval, as this typically means the manufacturer has donated money to become an endorsed member of an organization.

In a past online live chat hosted by Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Winship dermatologist, Suephy Chen, MD, addressed some frequently asked questions around the topic of sunscreen use and skin cancer prevention. One major takeaway from the chat: sunscreen should be applied every day, especially for people who have experienced sunburns or used tanning beds in the past. “The amount of sunscreen you use during the first (whole body) application of the day should be enough to fill a standard sized shot glass,” says Dr. Chen. She goes on to advise that “sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after you’ve perspired and/or have gotten in and out of the water.”

Remember, skin cancer is generally treatable if detected early. All the more reason to slop on the SPF! And if you haven’t done so lately, give your body a quick scan, and repeat this practice at least once a month. Get to know the pattern of your moles, spots, freckles, and other marks on your skin. If you notice any new moles or changes in shape or color to existing ones, please contact your healthcare provider.

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Find Out the Best Medicine for Melanoma

Thank you for joining us for the live online chat on the topic of Skin Cancer and Melanoma on May 28. We had excellent questions on skin cancer and melanoma. The key takeaway from the chat is that prevention is the best medicine for skin cancer and melanoma. Once you are burned the damage is already done to your skin.  So remember to wear your sunscreen (SPF of 30 or greater), wear hats and protective clothing and avoid the sun in the heat of the day (10am – 2pm). Take action now to avoid detrimental long term effects from the sun.You can read a full transcript of the Skin Cancer and Melanoma chat here.

Skin Cancer Prevention: Which Sunscreen is Best?

Sunscreen Tips Skin Cancer PreventionFor many people, Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff to Summer. Schools are finishing up and thousands will flock to beaches and lakes for the first getaway of the season. Whether you are going away, or spending a relaxing weekend at home, remember to wear sunscreen! Also, as you are on the hunt for the right product, know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to unveil new requirements for the way sunscreen manufacturers need to label and market their products to the consumer. We touched on this topic, as well as the importance of using sunscreen, during our recent Melanoma live chat with Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University dermatologist, Suephy Chen, MD.

According to Dr. Chen, changes to sunscreen labeling are a way of making sure that all sunscreens meet FDA required standards for safety and effectiveness. Labels will include specific and accurate information to help consumers select the right sun protection for themselves and their families.

When selecting the right sunscreen, “people should look for an SPF of 30. Anything higher than that doesn’t hurt, but it also doesn’t give you any real additional protection,” says Dr. Chen. “Proper coverage comes from reapplying sunscreen every two hours, especially if you’re in direct sunlight, have perspired and/or have gotten in and out of the water.”

Currently, the numbering system on sunscreens (SPF) only refers to protection against UV-B rays, which cause sunburn, but does not address UV-A rays, which can attribute to skin cancer and early skin damage. Under FDA regulation, all sunscreens have undergone “broad spectrum” tests to determine whether or not they protect against both UV-B and UV-A rays. Sunscreens that pass the test will now include the term “broad spectrum” on the label, to help consumers identify that they’re receiving coverage from both types of radiation.

The importance of using daily protection is crucial in the prevention of melanoma and other skin cancers. According to Dr. Chen, “only about 25% of melanomas come from a pre-existing mole, and about 75% of them occur in areas in which there was previously normal looking skin. Once sunburn happens, there are ways to treat the symptoms of the burn, but the damage to the skin has already been done.” For more sun safety tips, see part one of our Melanoma post series.

So if you plan on spending time outside this weekend, make sure to head to the drugstore first to load up on sun protection. Need a recommendation on a good product that you won’t have to break the bank for? After conducting their own series of “broad spectrum” tests, Consumer Reports recently revealed their top picks for reliable yet inexpensive sunscreens. Top products include: NO-Ad SPF 45 and Walgreen’s Continuous Spray Sunscreen Sport 50. Try them and let us know what you think in the comments field below!

For more information or to see a dermatologist, please call 404-778-777 or visit Winship’s website.