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Summer may soon be winding down, but plenty of us are still spending plenty of time outdoors, including at the beach, golf course, tennis court and park.
It’s important to keep ourselves against damaging summer rays, especially if we’ve put off our routine exam dues to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regardless of skin tone, everyone is susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun, health experts shared with Fox News Digital.
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They said taking measures to protect our skin against sun exposure might reduce the risk of developing skin cancer and premature aging such as age spots, wrinkles and sagging.
Physicians recommend that as we book time at the beach or golf course — or wherever we wind up going — that we remember to book a routine skin check with our dermatologists as well. Also, we should always bring along (and use) proper sunscreen.
“I recommend an annual exam, which must include examination of the whole body, from the scalp to between the toes.” Dr. David J. Leffell, MD, a David Paige Smith professor of dermatology and surgery chief at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., told Fox News Digital.
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It is important for everyone to get checked, he also said, especially if there’s a history of sunburn as a child, or if we work or participate in recreational activities in the sun.
Also, if we’re fair skinned, have light hair and have blue/green eyes — these are additional reasons to get checked.
Dr. Anthony M. Rossi, M.D., specializes in dermatological, cosmetic and laser surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
The assistant attending surgeon said that while annual skin examinations are important for all individuals, “Skin checks are important for certain subgroups of people — people with a personal history of melanoma or skin cancer, those who have a strong family history of melanoma, persons with many moles or red head phenotypes and those with a new or acutely changing lesion.”
One dermatology practice is booking months in advance due to the influx of calls trying to schedule their annual exam.
Jen Black, who works at Wesson Dermatology in Great Neck, N.Y., told Fox News Digital that many patients had put off getting skin checks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Black said a surge of patients has come back, saying people felt safer to get the exam done now. The dermatology practice is booking months out due to the influx of calls trying to schedule their annual exam.
How to detect suspicious spots
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) said it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer — but caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable.
The main types of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Melanoma is less common but more likely to invade tissues and spread to other parts of the body, according to the AAD. Most deaths from skin cancer are caused by melanoma, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“My rule of thumb is, ‘When in doubt, check it out.’”
Dermatologists said it is important to do self-skin checks to identify suspicious spots that may need further evaluation by your doctor.
Dr. Leffell told Fox Digital News, “Any mole that changes color, shape or size, or seems to be growing, should be checked out.”
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Often, patients have their own sense of something that just doesn’t seem right, he said.
“Certainly, any sore that doesn’t heal after 4-6 weeks, or comes back after healing, should be evaluated by a dermatologist or general physician,” he said. “My rule of thumb is ‘when in doubt, check it out.'”
How to perform a self-check
The American Academy of Dermatology offered the following tips on how to perform a self-skin check.
Examine your body in a full-length mirror
Examine your body front and back in a mirror
Look at the right and left sides with your arms raised
Look at your underarms, forearms and palms
Look at front and back of legs, spaces between toes, and soles of your feet
Examine back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for closer look at your scalp.
Use a hand mirror to check your back and buttocks
Choosing between sunscreen vs. sunblock
Regardless of skin tone, everyone is susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun, dermatologists said.
The AAD said it is important to apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every two hours or after swimming and sweating.
Sunscreen and sunblock are two terms used to denote a chemical filter in sun protection products, said Dr. Rossi.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering surgeon said that a chemical sunscreen typically contains chemical filters called avobenzone and oxybenzone, while sunblocks use a physical blocking mineral-based filter such as zinc or titanium oxides.
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Rossi said that to help clarify, “We mainly use the word sunscreen and denote a physical vs chemical one.”
“I prefer mineral sunscreens, which have historically been known as sunblock. The two mineral ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide,” he said, “and they both protect in the UVB and UVA range.”
“Heavy, thick sunscreens are less desirable than lighter-to-the-touch sunscreens.”
If you choose a chemical based sunscreen, it is important that it is a broad spectrum for both UVA and UVB coverage, he said.
Rossi, who is also founder of the Dr. Rossi Derm MD Skincare line, said mineral sunblocks tend to be less irritating.
“The chemical filters are more common culprits of irritation and allergy to a sunscreen. They can be irritating for some people. If you are using a sunscreen and it stings or is irritating, it could be a chemical sunscreen, so you should try a mineral based one,” Rossi told Fox News Digital.
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Rossi said sunscreen products protect against skin cancer but also prevent photo aging from UV and hyperpigmentation from UV exposure.
Rossi warned, “UVA even passes through clouds and window glass! This is important for patients with hyperpigmentation issues after inflammation or conditions like melasma.”
Use SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreens — and actually apply it on the skin, say doctors.
Seek shade especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at its strongest.
“What matters most is whether the particular sunscreen feels good enough on the skin that the person will use it regularly,” said Leffell. “Heavy, thick sunscreens are less desirable than lighter-to-the-touch suncreens.”
If a person is concerned about chemicals in sunscreen, he said the best bet “is a zinc oxide — meaning a mineral sunscreen product.”
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The AAD said that aside from applying sunscreen, it is important when spending time outdoors this summer to wear sun protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
The association also recommended seeking shade especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at its strongest.