RICHARD PAN: Stay Safe Under the Sun

sac-button-PanOPINION – Everyone notices the sun in Sacramento in the summer and everyone should be protecting themselves from its harmful rays, which can cause skin cancer.

While skin cancer is more common in White people, Black people are not immune to skin cancer and are often diagnosed at later stages of the disease resulting in lower survival rates. A survey of adult African Americans in California found that only 31 percent engaged in any sun protection behavior such as wearing a hat and 63 percent never used sunscreen.

There are several types of skin cancer. The most common form among Blacks is squamous cell cancer and it is most often found on the legs and the private areas. Risk factors include skin conditions that results in scarring or chronic inflammation such as lupus and burn scars. Squamous cell cancer can spread to other parts inside the body, so pay attention to non-healing ulcers, growths, and sores next to scars or inflammatory rashes.

Melanoma is often more deadly among Blacks than other people because it is so often missed until it is too late. Melanoma is found in areas of the skin with less pigment. For dark-skinned people, it can be found under the nails, the palms of the hand, and the soles of the feet. Light-skinned people are vulnerable in all sun-exposed areas of the skin. Melanoma often appears as a mole with irregular edges or color changes.

Protecting your skin from the sun is the best way to reduce the likelihood of getting skin cancer. Try to stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun is shining directly. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and reapply every two hours. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and cover your skin with clothing. Avoid tanning beds and getting sunburned.

Be aware of the signs of skin cancer and see your doctor if you notice a suspicious mole, ulcer, or sore. Stay safe under the sun!
By Dr. Richard Pan