Buddy Check 7: How to reduce risk of skin cancer during summer months

Buddy Check 7
Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 10:18 AM CDT
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - During the summer months spending as much time outside as possible can be tempting. But if you’re spending time outside, you’ll want to make sure you’re protecting your skin from the sun -- and checking yourself regularly for skin cancer.

Dr. Maggie Moses with the Marshfield Medical System suggests wearing sun-protective clothing while having fun outside this summer.

“By getting five sunburns in your lifetime, you double your risk of getting a skin cancer,” said Dr. Moses.

It’s a startlingly reminder to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

“Here in Wisconsin, we live for our summers, and so it’s often impossible to just stay out of the sun,” said Moses.

She suggests wearing sun-protective clothing while having fun outside this summer. “And that would include a wide-brimmed hat, UV clothing, but also wearing sunscreen at all times, and applying it 30 minutes before you go outside and then at least every 90 minutes to two hours depending on if you’re enjoying water activities,” Dr. Moses said.

When applying sunscreen SPF matters. SPF stands for sun protection factor. The SPF number explains how likely your skin would be to burn if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. So SPF 30 means it would take 30x longer to burn with that sunscreen.

Skin cancer risk increases with age but Dr. Moses says dermatologists have noticed a new trend. “Young women, under the age of 35 are having increased rates of basal cell carcinomas on their chest and their face.”

Basal cell carcinomas can look like a scab or a pimple that doesn’t heal. However, basal cell carcinomas won’t spread like melanoma will. “That’s a little more of that scary type of skin cancer because it has the risk to spread to other parts of the body, and what melanoma does is it looks like a mole that’s gone bad on the skin,” Dr. Moses said.

If you think you might have skin cancer, regardless of what type, Dr. Moses said it’s important to act fast. “Call a local dermatologist. I know the wait times can be kind of long, but we are here and ready to see any and all patients with any concerns on their skin.” People can also start with their primary care doctor. They can pass along your information to a dermatologist if they think you may have skin cancer.

People with fair skin, typically those with blue eyes or blonde hair are at higher risk for developing skin cancer.

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