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Skin and sun advice from one of NYC’s leading dermatologists
Everyday the sun seems just a little bright brighter, the days keep getting longer, and the temperature is going higher and higher. These halcyon days of summer mean sun dresses, tank tops, bathing suits, beaches and pool parties. Sadly, too much sun leads not only to sunburn, but wrinkles, sunspots, pigmentation issues and changes in skin texture. But far beyond those shallow concerns, it also can mean skin cancer.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the summer! You just need to pay attention to your exposure and always be prepared. Today, we’re happy to bring Dr. Amy Wechsler, a board certified dermatologist and psychiatrist (she’s one of only two such doctors in the whole country) who is graciously sharing her knowledge and advice on Skin Cancer Awareness and Protection with the we heart this readers. ~ wht
With summer upon us, there are a few facts you should know before heading into the sunshine:
• Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US.
• Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer, combined.
• One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
• More than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US each year.
Skin cancer is on the rise due to everything from the invention of tanning beds to global warming, which has depleted the upper atmosphere’s protective ozone layer. Fortunately there are ways you can protect yourself:
Always seek shade. It reduces UV by 50 to 95 percent. Avoidance is your number-one tactic, especially between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon, and near reflective surfaces (sand, water, snow). Even when it’s overcast, 80 percent of UV rays zips through the clouds. (In fact, you should even wear sunscreen when sitting in a window seat on a plane)
Cover your body. You’re thinking, who in their right mind wears a lot of clothes by the pool? Or on a hike? Be creative. At the beach, when you’re not in the water, wrap a beach towel around your lower half, put on a tee shirt and wear a wide-brimmed hat. For sports, invest in a few pieces of lightweight clothing especially made with an ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF. A UPF of 50 means only one-fifth of the sun’s rays pass through it. Or use a laundry product with TinosorbFD to increase the UPF of your clothes; it will last through repeated washings.
Think one teaspoon, two shot glasses. Slather on sunscreen…apply one teaspoon’s worth of broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher (which filters out 97 percent of UVB rays) on the face and at least three ounces, two shot glasses full, on the body. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and contains at least 9 percent invisible zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. (I like Neutrogena’s Sensitive Skin Sunscreen. Anthelios XL 50 Fluide Extreme (made by La Roche-Posay) is another good one for the face.)
• Apply sunscreen indoors, about thirty minutes before you go out in the sun.
• Ignore promises of “all-day protection” and “water resistant”; they are not reliable. Reapply all sunscreens at least every two to three hours and right after sweating or swimming.
• There’s an expiration date on sunscreens. Check it and toss old ones.
• Don’t store sunscreens in the glove compartment of your car – heat degrades them.
• Don’t forget to protect the lips, hands and ears. Those are common areas for skin cancer that people forget about.
Screening. Be proactive about scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist if you’ve never been to one, and be diligent about regular, once yearly checkups to have a complete body exam. It’s also important to screen for funny, changing spots or moles at home.
The ABCs to identification:
• Asymmetry – half of the spot doesn’t match or look like the other half.
• Borders that are irregular – ragged, notched, or blurred around the edges.
• Color changes – say, from tan to black or red to bluish.
• Diameter – anything larger than a pencil eraser (6 millimeters) should be scrutinized, in addition to anything that’s started growing.
When in doubt, get it checked out.
Amy Wechsler, MD is the author of The Mind-Beauty Connection:9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You. She is also the founder of Dr. Amy Wechsler Dermatology, practice based in her hometown of New York City, which specializes in customized skin care and the Mind-Body Connection.
Her sound and sensible skin advice has been sought by and featured in some of your favorite publications including InStyle, Marie Claire, Martha Stewart Living, Allure, Better Homes & Gardens and yes, even the big O, Oprah Magazine.
Image of Dr. Wechsler; Michael Black/Black Sun