Getting Some Sun This Summer? Protect Your Skin

By: Jennifer C. Yates

This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and for many people that means spending time outside. But the National Council of Skin Cancer Prevention has a warning for those who want to soak up the sun: Protect your skin.

The council has declared today “Don’t Fry Day” in hopes of spreading skin safety awareness.

The most common form of cancer in the U.S. is skin cancer, and it can take many forms.  Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are common and highly curable, except in advanced stages, while a third increasingly frequent kind of skin cancer, melanoma, is much more dangerous.  This form is curable when treated early.  Tanning, whether it be outdoors in the sun or inside in a tanning bed, can increase your risk for all skin cancers, and specifically has been linked to melanoma risk.

“Both kinds of recreational tanning expose you to ultraviolet radiation in the form of UVA and UVB rays,” says John Kirkwood, M.D., director of the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.  “UV rays increase your risk for skin cancer because they trigger mutations and also knock out the immune response that enables the body to protect itself. The effects of UV rays may not appear for years but can be just as unhealthy.”

You also can be at increased risk for skin cancer if you have moles, a family history of skin cancer, freckling or a sensitivity to the sun or a history of serious sunburns.

The National Council of Skin Cancer Prevention recommends the following to help reduce your exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation:

            • Do not burn or tan.
            • Seek shade.
            • Wear sun-protective clothing.
            • Generously apply sunscreen.
            • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand.
For more information about skin cancer, treatments and resources, visit the UPMC CancerCenter website.