Skin protection for summer months

By James Nitzkorski, MD  |  7/28/2016

There's no more waiting for summer. The Hudson Valley's hot days are here. Before you head out into the sun, check out these seven skincare tips:

  • Sunburn can be a big deal. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and the more you are exposed to the sun, the greater the risk you have. There number of melanoma diagnoses keeps increasing, and although a lot more rare than other skin cancers, it's deadly. One person dies every hour from melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. 
  • Everyone should use sunscreen, regardless of nationality or weather conditions. Even on cloudy and overcast days, the sun's rays can cause a harmful burn. Routine daily sunblock use can decrease the risk of melanoma.
  • Sunscreen expires. Before reaching for that half-empty bottle from a few summers ago, check the expiration date. Has the color or consistency changed? If so, toss it.
  • Not all sun-blocking products are created equal. You want to look for a sunscreen that says it is "Broad Spectrum," which means it offers protection against UVA and UVB rays. It should be Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher and water resistant. Reapply frequently. Check the label of your sunscreen for specific directions on how often, usually somewhere between 40 and 80 minutes, depending on activity.
  • One single indoor tanning session increases the risk of melanoma by 20 percent, a research study published in July 2012 in the British Medical Journal found. Indoor tanning should never be done, and the concept of base tanning before a vacation should be abandoned. 
  • If you have sunburn, take a cool bath, pat dry and apply moisturizer to trap water in your skin. Hydrocortisone cream and aspirin or ibuprofen are over-the-counter medicines that may help with discomfort and swelling. And, avoid the sun.
  • Remember, early detection saves lives. Most melanoma caught at an early stage is curable with an operation alone — no chemotherapy or radiation. Regular dermatology visits for skin evaluation is critically important. 

Dr. James Nitzkorski is a surgical oncologist with Health Quest Medical Practice, who is on the medical staff of Vassar Brothers Medical Center.