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Seeing the Light
Melissa Howsam | Photo: Courtesy Image | June 4, 2014
JEZ scoops cutting-edge tips of the trade on preventing, detecting and treating skin cancer.
Baby oil and aluminum foil are so 30 years ago. Swap the ’80s supertan for some shade, especially “when the UV rays are strongest, typically between 10am and 4pm,” says Dr. Alan Gardner, board-certified dermatologist at Gardner Dermatology & Med Spa.
No sun? SPF it up anyway. “Eighty to 90 percent of UV rays can penetrate clouds,” says Dr. Tunisia Cornelius, board- certified dermatologist at Atlanta Dermatology & Laser Surgery. Those rays “can also reflect off water, sand and pavement, so, even in the shade, UV can be deceptively high.” (Sneaky.) Stay covered with broad-spectrum UV-A and UV-B protection with SPF15, 1 ounce for your entire body. “Apply 15-plus minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply every two hours,” explains Dr. Cornelius.
“SLIP! SLOP! SLAP! WRAP!”
Trade the almost-naked baking for some covered sun-smart strategies. Adopting American Cancer Society’s slogan and “wearing protective clothing,” recommends Dr. Gardner, could save that sweet, supple skin: Slip on a shirt (and pants); slop on some sunscreen; slap on a “broad-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and chest,” says Dr. Gardner; and wrap on (UV-protective) sunnies.
As if you needed a justification for that beauty budget... Dr. Gardner recommends SPF15+ mineral makeups that specifically include zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which can also help prevent skin cancer by reflecting the sun’s ultraviolet radiation away from the skin, and may have antioxidants to boot. Oh, and keep those lips kissable with SPF lip balm.
Clearly laying in a box of UV-A and UV-B bulbs isn’t your best bet, accelerating your odds of cancer—and aging. No thanks. Sunless tanners with Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) can give you that healthy glow sans the harmful rays. A fan of the sun salon? Get sprayed.
THE D DILEMMA
Sun or supplement? The answer is easy. Essential to your health, vitamin D doesn’t have to come from SPF-less sun exposure. According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, you can safely take in those 600 daily rec IUs via diet (oily fishes, dairy) and supplements. “The vitamin D you get from these sources offer the same health benefits as the vitamin D you get from the sun, without the risks of skin cancer and premature aging,” says Dr. Gardner.
LABELS SAVE LIVES
Many common drugs can make you “more susceptible to skin damage from UV rays,” says Dr. Cornelius. Think “antibiotics; chemo drugs; cardiac, diabetes, acne, pysch meds; painkillers.” Ask your doc and pharmacist, and read all labels on supplements and prescription/nonprescription drugs before stepping out into the sun.
Detect & Treat It
PRACTICE YOUR ABCDE’S
If you want your body to stay a wonderland, the docs recommend monthly self-exams. Learn your skin and spots; then look for changes using what Dr. Cornelius calls the ABCDE key: Asymmetry (one half is off in color, size, shape or thickness), border irregularity (blurred or ragged), color (should be uniform, not with shades of black, brown, tan, blue, red or white), diameter (no larger than pencil eraser), and elevation or evolution (raised from skin, or changes in appearance).
Have a doc check your skin annually (“more frequently if history of cancer,” says Dr. Cornelius). Despite your A+ detective work, a board-certified derm should double-check your inspection. Don’t have a doc or low on funds? The American Academy of Dermatology offers free screenings. This month, get screened at Northside Hospital (appointment required, June 19, 6-8pm; shorts and tees recommended attire).
Tinder isn’t the only tech making a mark—or erasing it in this case. “A number of cutting-edge procedures can be used to improve sun-damaged skin,” says Dr. Cornelius. Intense pulsed light, V Beam lasers, Q switched lasers, Fraxel lasers (heats deeper layers to stimulate new collagen), microdermabrasion and other procedures “may help to slough off some precancerous cells while restoring a youthful appearance,” says Dr. Cornelius. Should a precancerous or cancerous lesion develop, though, your doc will determine whether to use topical, surgical or other destructive methods.
Source: Dr. Tunisia Finch Cornelius, board certified dermatologist, Atlanta Dermatology & Laser Surgery, Tucker; Dr. Alan Gardner, board certified dermatologist, Gardner Dermatology & Med Spa, Marietta