Hopla’s Health Tips- Skin health: Bring on the sunshine

Hopla's Health Tips- Skin health: Bring on the sunshine

Deborah L. Hopla, DNP, Contributing Writer

Most of us are sick of winter! Finally, the daffodils, Bradford pear trees, and robins have started popping up around the university. As the weather warms, students start a transformation from rushing around campus shivering and burdened down with coats, gloves and scarves to suddenly appearing in shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops. Skin that has not seen sun in over three months is now being exposed. Spring break, I am sure, called many to the shoreline to bask in the warmth of the sun. Spending an afternoon in the university’s wonderful baseball field cheering our guys on to victory is a treat! Finally breaking free of winter is an excitement that is spreading across campus.

With the change in season comes a health risk that, unfortunately here in the south, is a reality. That health risk is too much sun exposure. The sun helps our bodies to receive vitamin D and makes bones stronger. The sun can also turn deadly with too much exposure, putting people at risk for melanoma. The American Academy of Dermatology (2014) stated that, “One in 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime.” Skin specialists inform us that, “About 75 percent of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.” Common locations of melanoma for African Americans are the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands and under finger and toenails. Melanoma does not discriminate but can be deadly for all races and genders. There is a lower survival rate among the African American population due to a delay in the diagnosis of melanoma.

How can you recognize melanoma, and how can it be prevented? The A, B, C and D method best identifies melanoma. The letter A stands for asymmetry: one side looks different than the other side. The letter B stands for border irregularity where the border of the skin lesion is not round but looks notched, uneven or even blurred. The letter C stands for the color. Is the skin lesion color uneven or black? The letter D stands for diameter. If the skin lesion has a diameter greater than 6 millimeters it should be removed and checked for melanoma. Some other warning signs can include having a skin lesion that is scaly, tender, bleeds easily, never seems to heal or seems to grow or change in appearance.

Primary prevention is application of a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15. This will block 94 percent of UVB rays. When applying sunscreen, it should be applied liberally and reapplied every 30 minutes. Wearing a hat with a large brim, long sleeves, pants and socks is helpful in blocking harmful rays. Avoiding the most intense time of the day for harmful rays, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., will reduce the risk of skin damage.

Sunshine feels great, but overdoing it and not taking proper precautions can put a person at risk for melanoma. Knowledge and prevention help us all to have fun in the sun without putting our health at risk.