Medical Dermatology

Skin Cancer and Sunburn

Skin Cancer is a product of heredity and/or exposure to the sun. Most sun damage takes place before age 18, but it’s crucial to take precautions at any age since the ravages of the sun on skin are cumulative. Cancer can happen anywhere on the body, though most frequently it appears on the face, arms, neck and legs, which get the most exposure to the sun.

There are three types of skin cancer: Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma affect the epidermis, and the more dangerous malignant melanoma has an increased risk of spreading, or metastasizing.

Skin cancer can manifest itself as a changing mole, a small bump, a patch of unusually glossy skin, or a persistently flaky area. Any new or changing growth, non-healing sore, or developing mole should be examined by a dermatologist, who may biopsy it.

People with fair complexions, those who live in sunny climates, those who get routine exposure to sunlight and those with a history of skin cancer in their families are at highest risk. So keep an eye on your own skin, and be sure to get screened at least once a year by a dermatologist.

Sunburn happens with the top layers of the skin are exposed to the sun or to ultraviolet light and become inflamed. Fair-skinned people are most susceptible, as well as those who rarely stay out in the sun and then emerge for an extended period. The peak symptoms, which include tender, red skin, exhaustion, and blisters or fever in serious cases, usually appear a few hours after exposure. To treat sunburn, smooth on a cool aloe gel, or break apart an aloe plant and squeeze its contents directly. Also, yogurt works miracles to relieve the pain and replenish dehydrated skin. After sun exposure, it’s key to keep skin moisturized, so apply a cream that glides on easily.

The best way to deal with sunburn is to prevent it. Always wear sunscreen with minimum SPF 30, preferably one with zinc oxide (such as Dr. Jessica Wu CosmeceuticalsTM Anti-Aging Sun Care SPF32) —even on overcast or rainy days, since harmful rays can still penetrate the cloud cover. Choose alternate methods of tanning, such as spray-on or self-tanners. Wear a hat and a protective covering at the beach, and avoid staying outdoors for prolonged periods when the sun is strongest, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.