While spending time outdoors is a great way to be physically active, get vitamin D, reduce stress and have fun, physicians at Atrium Health Navicent caution that too much unprotected sun exposure can be dangerous. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to remind individuals to be sun-safe when planning summer activities.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, an invisible type of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps, can lead to skin cancer, as UV rays are especially damaging to skin cells.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States with 4.3 million adults treated for skin cancer annually. One in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Skin cancer can affect everyone, regardless of skin color. People with lighter skin pigmentation are much more likely to have their skin damaged by UV rays, but darker-skinned people also can be affected. Darker skin has more melanin than lighter skin. Melanin helps block damaging UV rays up to a point, which is why lighter-skinned people get sunburns more easily than darker-skinned people.
“If you’ve had three major, blistering sunburns in your lifetime, you’re at an increased risk of skin cancer. But, it’s important to remember that UV exposure also raises risk even without the burn,” said Dr. Paul Dale, chief of surgical oncology for Atrium Health Navicent and medical director for the Atrium Health Peyton Anderson Cancer Center. “Plan ahead by applying sunscreen before you go outside and don’t forget to reapply often. If you’re concerned about a mole or another spot on your skin, see your primary care doctor. Moles that itch or change shape, size or color should be examined as soon as possible. The earlier we identify cancer, the better we can treat it.”
Atrium Health Navicent physicians recommend individuals take the following preventative steps to protect their skin from too much UV exposure and to lower skin cancer risk:
• Stay in the shade as much as possible, under an umbrella, tree or other shelter.
• Use sunscreen and wear protective clothing when you’re outside, even if you’re in the shade. Sunscreen with a
SPF of 30 or higher should be applied in a thick layer on all exposed skin. The higher the SPF, the more
protection the sunscreen offers. Be sure to reapply at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating or
toweling off. The use of sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months old. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration recommends that infants be dressed in protective clothing and kept in the shade.
• Wear a hat that has a brim that shades your face, ears and the back of your neck. If you wear a baseball cap,
protect your ears and the back of your neck with clothing, sunscreen or by staying in the shade.
• Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the skin
around your eyes from sun exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection.
Wrap-around styles block UV rays from coming in from the side.
If you have concerns about too much sun exposure, the Atrium Health Navicent Peyton Anderson Cancer Center can help. The center offers a range of services that encompasses all aspects of cancer care, from screening and diagnosis, through treatment and into survivorship. The Cancer Center is accredited by the Commission on Cancer with Commendation – Gold Level.
About Atrium Health Navicent
Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit
source Atrium Health Navicent