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Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

June 15, 2018

Eric Whitman, MD, medical director of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care and founder and director of the Atlantic Melanoma Center, wants to remind people that “we should always be reminded of both the danger from excessive sun exposure and skin cancers, as well as the amazing progress made over the last few years in melanoma and skin cancer treatment.”

“I’ll admit, we feel better in the sun and we look better when we’re tan. But a suntanned body is a sign of skin damage,” says John M. Williams, MD, PhD, a Harvard Medical School and Stanford University-trained, board-certified dermatologist and founder of the Skin Care and Surgery Center in Summit. “A tan indicates that you’ve damaged your skin enough to cause your body to produce increased melanin in response to that damage.”

And that’s just what’s happening on the surface, Dr. Williams points out. The sun’s ultraviolet rays – even if you do not burn – can lead to skin cancer. In fact, just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles your chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Dr. Williams offers these tips for protecting your skin from the damaging effects of the sun:

  • Minimize exposure to the midday sun (10:00am to 2:00pm). 
  • Wear clothing, hats and sunglasses that protect the skin. UV-protective clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating of 50+ blocks virtually 100 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. 
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB protection) with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
  • Apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes prior to sun exposure AND apply enough to be effective (equivalent to a full shot glass for the entire body).
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
  • Do not use sunlamps or tanning beds.
  • Consider a self-tanning product but continue to use sunscreen.
  • Perform regular skin self-exams, paying attention to the size, shape, edges and color of every mole on your skin. 
  • If you see something, say something … schedule a visit to your dermatologist for a professional skin cancer screening.
  • If you’re over 50, have a family history of melanoma or have multiple moles (>50), get a skin cancer screening every year.

“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States,” observes Dr. Williams. “Statistics show that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that, when detected early, it’s highly treatable.” Adds Dr. Whitman, “We are excited to work with outstanding dermatologic practitioners like Dr. Williams. Our partnerships with dermatologists in the community create a seamless path for optimal skin cancer care for patients and their families.”

Dr. Williams can be reached at 908-598-1300.