Track ready? Don’t forget the sunscreen

The FDA has new guidelines on sunscreen. One patient talks about the importance of protecting your skin.

It’s May in Indiana and already the temperatures have spiked in the 80s with the sun beating down. Hoosiers are more than ready to soak up some of those rays.

Before heading out into the sunshine, consider this: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Statistically, 1.6 new cases are reported annually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The most common, basal cell carcinoma doesn’t spread and can be removed in a doctor’s office. Squamous cell can spread quickly and can be treated if caught early. Melanoma is the deadliest and can be difficult to treat if it isn’t caught early.

Matthew Douglass, Muncie, was 30 years old when he was diagnosed with an early stage of melanoma in February 2013. His mother was also diagnosed with melanoma in her 20s and had the spot surgically removed. Douglass, who is a red head with fair skin, said his spot started as a small freckle on the back of his neck and began changing colors. He had surgery to remove the spot and continues to have check ups monthly. He is also diligent about wearing sunscreen, a hat and long sleeves when he’s out in the sun. This month marks his five-year check up with an all clear.

“It’s important to protect your skin no matter what your skin tone. You can do that by applying sunscreen, wearing hats and protective clothing and seeking shade to limit your time in the sun,” said Becky Butts, coordinator of community education cancer services for IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. “Looking for sunscreen can be overwhelming. Here are a few things to know – be sure to use broad spectrum – giving you protection from both UVA and UVB rays and be sure it has an SPF of at least 15,” said Butts. Some doctors suggest at least a 30 SPF for maximum coverage. She suggests applying sunscreen about 30 minutes before heading outside. “Watch for changes in your skin. If moles or other areas on your skin are new or changing, see a healthcare provide.”

Dermatologists recommend reapplying sunscreen especially to sensitive areas exposed to sun such as the face every two hours.

The FDAs recent requirements for sunscreen are intended to ensure that over-the-counter products meet standards to provide maximum protection. The proposal focuses on maintaining safe and effective sun-blocking ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email