The Place: National Sun Safety Month

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 4:19 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - August is National Sun Safety Month and while you’re out at the lake or soaking up the rays at the pool this weekend, it’s a good reminder to be vigilant in protecting your body. This includes using sunscreen and being aware of how much time you spend outdoors. Too much fun in the sun can result in dire consequences.


It’s summertime, you’re out in the sun and you want to get that coveted sun-kissed glow, but that tan comes at a price. If you’re not careful, your view could go from this, to this real quick. 23 year-old, Hannah Ruder learned this lesson the hard way.

“I found this freckle on the back of my calf after I cut myself shaving and it was just a tiny little spot, just happened to be out of the ordinary,” Ruder said.

Noticing the odd-looking mole, she went to her dermatologist, who did a biopsy. The results were disturbing.

“It came back as a severely dysplastic nevus, which is very early skin cancer,” Ruder explained.

Since they caught it early, doctors were able to surgically remove it, but this small spot on her leg quickly turned into a decent sized scar.

She said, “It was just like a huge shock to me.”

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day and at least one in five will develop skin cancer before they are 70.

There are three major types of skin cancer. The first and most common is basal cell carcinoma. It might look like a recurring sore or even a pimple. The second most common is a squamous cell carcinoma which can be rough and look like a wart. The third and most aggressive is the feared melanoma. It can look like a brown or black changing mole and can be very deadly. To identify this type, think of the ABC’s. If the mole is asymmetric, the border is irregular, the color is off and the diameter changes or is bigger than a pencil eraser, it’s time to get it checked out. So how can you prevent getting skin cancer in the first place? To start, we need to understand what causes it.

Dr. Michael Swann with Swann Dermatology says it’s really sun exposure. “It goes with genetics, with your skin type. Lighter skin folks are more at risk and less protected and just your geographic area. If it gets lots of sun, you’re more likely to get skin cancer,” he explained.

How do you know if you’re at a higher risk? Well, your skin will probably tell you.

“When you’re out in the sun for a day and your skin reacts with redness, tenderness and peeling, it’s kind of a natural consequence. You can see that and say hey, my skin is angry,” said Dr. Swann.

Now that we know the cause, how do we protect ourselves? The most effective methods are to cover up. Wear a hat that protects your head and your face. A big one is to use sunscreen. Statistics show using SPF 15 or higher reduces a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 50%. For the most protection, Dr. Swann advises to look for physical or mineral sunscreen with ingredients that include zinc oxide, titanium oxide and iron oxide. There’s also chemical sunscreen with ingredients including oxybenzone and avobenzone which absorb into the skin like a sponge and are used in most cosmetics.

“I’ve got a lot of people, women especially and they say well I’ve got sunscreen in my makeup. That’s almost invariably all chemical sunscreen. If you think about it, by the time you put your makeup on in the morning, you’re not probably getting your sun until the middle of the day and it’s already pretty worn out,” explained Dr. Swann.

The key difference between these types lies in how they block the sun’s rays. Physical sunscreen offers the most broad protection against both UVA rays, which can cause wrinkles and premature aging and UVB rays, which can cause sunburns and skin cancer. It can be chalky and leave a white residue. Chemical sunscreen blocks more UVB rays than UVA and acts like a filter. It goes on easy and leaves no visible residue. When using either type, Dr. Swann recommends you cover your bases and apply directly to your skin for the most protection.

“Thing is, when you use a spray, people are literally just barely getting anything on their skin and so I think it’s a Catch-22. It’s better than nothing and it’s very convenient, but I do think you need to get a decent amount on your skin to protect yourself,” said Dr. Swann.

Finally, pay attention to the UV index your local news and the national weather service provides. It will tell you how much of a risk there is for sunburn and how long it can take. Anything above a six is moderate to high risk and could take 10-15 minutes of exposure for your skin to burn, according to the University of Iowa. Now this doesn’t mean you need to hide from the sun all day long. You can still live your life normally, just be smart with your decisions.

“You just gotta make your choices and live with them,” Dr. Swann said.

Choices that can help you prevent any kind of severe sun damage that could potentially lead you to the operating table...or worse.

Hannah Ruder has advice to anyone wanting to get a tan. “Humble yourself and put on the sunscreen. You can always spray tan later,” she said.

According to Dr. Swann, the most common places for skin cancer are sun exposed areas including the head, neck, arms and legs. If you think you might have a concerning spot, contact your local dermatologist.

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