With the long summer stretching out before us, avoiding the hot sun may seem practically impossible. In fact, many people seek the glowing complexion from the summer sun or tanning beds. A Baylor College of Medicine expert reminds us that no tan is a healthy tan but instead increases the risk of developing skin cancer.
Dr. Ida Orengo, professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine, provides tips on protecting our skin from damage from the sun and tanning beds.
“The sun is the No. 1 culprit in skin cancer,” said Orengo. “The most commonly seen skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, and all of these have a definite relationship to the sun and ultra violet exposure.”
To help reduce and prevent skin cancer, limit the amount of sun exposure that you get during your lifetime, Orengo said.
“Only 15 minutes of sun a day gives you all the Vitamin D you need,” she said. “You want to avoid getting a blistering sunburn because that will increase your risk of developing skin cancer.”
Wearing sunscreen is a good way to protect your skin from damage. However, according to Orengo, sunscreen can only protect your skin for two hours. She suggests taking other preventative measures such as wearing protective clothing like long sleeves, hats and sunglasses for additional protection.
For anyone who is looking to get a nice tan, Orengo recommends using self-tanning lotions and spray tans opposed to UV tanning beds and lying out in the sun.
“I don’t recommend tanning booths,” she said. “We see a lot of people who develop melanoma at a young age because they use tanning beds, and this is something that could have been prevented.”
Usually skin cancer has no symptoms, and often those who experience skin cancer are not diagnosed early. Orengo suggests checking moles once a month for any type of change.
“We always talk about primary and secondary prevention. For skin cancer, the primary prevention is avoiding long periods of time in the sun and wearing protective clothing, and the secondary prevention is going to your dermatologist early, because the earlier you get diagnosed the earlier your chances are of getting cured.”