How to enjoy the sun safely

Skin cancer is preventable, blocking the sun’s rays is the key

As summer hits full stride, families throughout Kentucky will be spending lots of time outdoors. Whether you are working outside or enjoying time at the park, lake or playground, Norton Cancer Institute has some advice: Enjoy the sun safely.

As an oncologic dermatologist at Norton Cancer Institute, Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., cares for patients at high risk for skin cancer. She also treats serious skin-related conditions related to chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant or skin metastases from other cancers.

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One thing Dr. Jung wants people to know is most skin cancer is preventable.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun causes most skin cancer. Blocking these rays from reaching your skin helps prevent skin cancer.

“Avoid getting sunburned,” Dr. Jung said. “Blistering sunburns can increase the risk for skin cancer.”

She recommends applying sunscreen liberally and reapplying often. Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day, whether it’s sunny or not.

Sunscreen should be used on adults and children ages 6 months and older. Younger children should wear sun-protective clothing or be kept in the shade. Newborns should always be kept out of the sun.

Other sun tips

  • Stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • If you’re active or will be outside for long periods, wear sun-protective clothing or use water-resistant UVA/UVB sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

Dr. Jung advises checking yourself monthly for skin changes. Pay attention to areas that get lots of sun exposure, such as the back of your neck and scalp. If you notice odd-looking moles, markings or new growths, seek medical care as soon as possible.

“The good news is most skin cancers are basal cell or squamous cell, which are usually easily treated,” Dr. Jung said. “But there is a chance that what you notice might be melanoma.”

The American Academy of Dermatology lists melanoma as the most serious form of skin cancer. It accounts for less than 10 percent of all skin cancer, but causes 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. Kentucky ranks among the top 10 states nationwide for highest incidence of melanoma.

Dr. Jung is the first cancer specialist in the Louisville area with a subspecialty in oncologic dermatology. She shares a simple “ABCDE” rule to help identify what melanoma might look like compared to a regular mole or growth:

  • Asymmetry – a line through the middle will not create matching halves
  • Border – uneven borders
  • Color – various shades of color in one growth
  • Diameter – larger than a pencil eraser
  • Evolution – a change in a previously noted growth

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. More than 5 million cases are diagnosed nationwide each year, but you can lower your risks by enjoying the sun safely.

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