Skin Cancer Awareness Month & Protecting Yourself As Weather Gets Warmer

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and with our weather finally warming up, it’s a great time for a reminder on the importance of skin protection.

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To understand the importance of sunscreen and protective wear, we have to understand what we're protecting our skin from.

"UV light has short term effects on our skin and long term effects,” explains Dr. Girish Mohan, director of Cosmetic and Laser Dermatology at Hartford Healthcare Dermatology. "In the short term, we know sunburn we want to avoid.  Sunburn we know it's not healthy for our skin, it's painful our skin peels off so using sunscreen and sun-protective behaviors will be good to avoid sunburn."

Painful as sunburns may be, the long term effects can be even worse. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime.

"Studies have showed that consistent use of sunscreen and sun-protective behavior will minimize this risk,” says Dr. Mohan.

It also protects against skin aging.

"It will help minimize the signs of skin aging so we're talking about wrinkles, sun spots, sagging skin, some people don't realize that the repeated exposure to UV light and sun contributes to that."

So what do you need to look for when it comes to choosing a sunscreen that is right for you?

Sunscreen should be:

  • Broad spectrum. That means it protects against UVA and UVB light.
  • SPF matters. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF of at minimum 30. That blocks 97% of UV rays.
  • Water resistant. If you're going to be in water make sure it's water resistant.

And of course, don’t forget to reapply throughout the day. It’s also important to pay attention to your skin and don’t be afraid to see a doctor if something looks suspicious.

"As we get wiser and we celebrate more birthdays things pop up on our skin and it's important for you to keep an eye on things."

With many people not going to the doctors for preventative appointments, a good way to determine if you need to get something checked out is using the ABCDs of melanoma - the most aggressive type of skin cancer.

  • A - Asymmetrical
  • B-  Border is irregular
  • C - Color irregularity
  • D - Diameter of more than 6mm - about the size of a pencil eraser

These are things that should be evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist. The earlier the detection, the better.

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