IU Health Bloomington Hospital

Blocking Out Damaging Sun Rays

Health & Wellness

July 30, 2019

UV radiation is the main cause of non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC), including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These cancers affect more than 250,000 Americans each year.

Many researchers believe that UV radiation frequently plays a key role in melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which kills more than 8,000 Americans each year.

Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer that often resists drug treatment. It occurs when pigment-producing skin cells, called melanocytes, become cancerous. Studies have shown that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun increases your risk of getting melanoma, especially if you had sunburns during childhood. UV rays can damage the DNA in skin cells. Sometimes this damage affects certain genes that control how skin cells grow and divide. If these genes no longer work properly, the affected cells may become cancer cells.

Best ways to protect yourself:

  • Stay in the shade, especially between 10 am – 4 pm
  • Avoid getting sunburnt
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day
  • For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating
  • Examine your skin, head-to-toe, every month for suspicious moles
  • See your physician annually for a professional skin exam

ABCs of spot changes

The first sign of melanoma is typically a new spot on the skin, or a change in the size, shape or color of an existing mole.

The ABCDE method may help you determine whether an abnormal skin growth may be melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: The mole has an irregular shape.
  • Border: The edge is not smooth, but irregular or notched.
  • Color: The mole has uneven shading or dark spots.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving or Elevation: The spot is changing in size, shape or texture.

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