ASSENA, NY – Summer in the North Country is celebrated with flip-flops, swimming, and outdoor gatherings and projects; which also lead to sun exposure and many unwanted sun burns and sun damage.
Having options to protect our skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays has come a long way in the past several years. As St. Lawrence Health medical providers discuss the risks associated with UV exposure with their patients, more and more people have moved away from the days of lathering up with baby oil and basking in the sun. Individuals have been strongly encouraged to use sun screen with a minimum of 30 SPF (sun protection factor), and ultraviolet protective clothing while outside.
“Quite simply, UV rays are harmful to our skin… no matter what your skin tone is,” noted Canton-Potsdam Hospital Dermatology Physician Assistant Amanda Agley. “Sun damage comes in many forms, and these outward signs of damage can sometimes be treated cosmetically. However, the underlying effects of sun damage from sun burns include DNA mutations that can cause skin cancer, and are not reversible.”
Along with skin cancers, sun damage can come in the form of sunspots, freckles, age spots, wrinkles, redness, and precancerous lesions.
If you are out in the sun for several hours, it is important to remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours. If your activities include swimming, or you are sweating, it should be reapplied more often. UV protective clothing is also advised when your skin is exposed at length. And, do not forget to pack a hat and sunglasses.
“A hat offers better protection than your hair. Dermatology providers see skin cancer on the scalp all the time, and not just on people who are bald or have thin hair,” Ms. Agley said. “Our eyesight is extremely precious and should be protected just like our skin. Ocular melanoma is the most common primary cancer affecting the eye. Be sure to wear your sunglasses.”
While the sun is at its hottest in our region during the summer and UV Safety Awareness Month is being celebrated in July, sun protection for the body and eyes is important year-round. Even in the cooler months, the sun still gives off UV rays.
“If you have existing sun damage, protection can prevent it from developing further. And if you have a history of skin cancer, you should absolutely be wearing sunscreen on a daily basis,” Ms. Agley advised.
Ms. Agley is performing Free Skin Cancer Screenings at the Massena Hospital Medical Office Building, 181 Main Street, Massena, on Wednesdays, August 31, September 28, and October 26. To make an appointment for a screening, please call 315.769.4656. The monthly screenings are being sponsored by the Massena Hospital Foundation.
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