Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taking care of your skin

Skin Considerations For The Athlete This Summer by Dr. Brian Zelickson and Dr. Susan Rudolph, Dermatologists

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It is critical for regulating body temperature, protecting from injury and defending against infection from the outside environment. It is important to take good care of your skin so it will remain healthy as you age and continue its role to protect you. Aside from time, the most damaging factor to your skin is the sun.
Long hours of training and activity outdoors can result in excessive sun-damage to the skin and may put you at higher risk for skin cancer. 

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. There are three main types of cancer that arise within the skin:
1. Basal cell carcinoma
2. Squamous cell carcinoma
3. Melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer followed by squamous cell carcinoma. These are generally easily treatable if caught early, as they rarely spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma, on the other hand, is very serious and sometimes fatal because it has the highest potential to spread to other parts of the body.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas often appear as a new red bump or sore that just doesn’t heal.  It may also bleed, scab, be scaly, or even painful.  They are typically found in areas that get the most sun (head, neck, chest, shoulders, arms and hands). Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body and typically looks brown in color like a mole.  It can arise in a pre-existing mole or as a new “mole” all together.
When examining your moles, it is helpful to remember the acronym “ABCDE” which can help you to identify potential melanoma:
A = Asymmetry. One half of the mole does not look like the other half.
B = Borders. The borders of the mole are irregular: scalloped or poorly defined.
C = Color. The mole has varying shades of tan, brown and black, and sometimes even red, white, or blue.
D = Diameter. The mole is larger than 6 mm or about the size of a pencil eraser.
E = Evolving.  The mole changes in shape, size or color over time.


Minimizing the amount of UV light absorbed by your skin is one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer and the signs of aging. There are 2 types of UV rays: UVA and UVB.  UVA is able to penetrate your skin deeper and is largely responsible for the aging effects on your skin.  UVB is responsible for sunburns and has been shown to play an important role in the development of skin cancer.  It is important to realize that sun damage is cumulative and builds up over your lifetime. It cannot be reversed so it’s vital to protect your skin while you’re young.
Tips for protection:
  1. Minimize being outdoors between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm when ultraviolet rays are the strongest. It’s best to do your training early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
  2. Use sunscreen every day on your face and the rest of your body when doing activities outdoors. This is true even for cloudy days since UV rays can still reach your skin.
  3. Apply sunscreen about 15-30 minutes before going outside and reapply at least every 1-2 hours.
  4. Most adults need at least 1 ounce of sunscreen, or about a ‘shot glass full’, to fully cover all areas of the body.
  5. Use a sunscreen that is "broad spectrum" which means it will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. It can also protect against skin cancer, prematurely aging skin and sunburn.
  6. Use a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. While SPF 15 is the FDA’s minimum recommendation for skin cancer prevention and sunburn, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends choosing a sunscreen with an SPF level of at least 30.
  7. Look for a sunscreen that is “water resistant”, especially if you are going to be sweating or swimming. These sunscreens are formulated to provide protection in water for up to either 40 or 80 minutes (depending on the brand) before you need to reapply.
  8. Consider wearing sun protective clothing such as light-weight, long-sleeved shirts, pants and broad-brimmed hats.
  9. Wear sunglasses with UV-blocking filters as melanoma can also develop in your eyes.
  10. Don’t forget your lips!  Skin cancer can also develop on the lips and may be quite aggressive. To protect your lips, select a lip balm that is labeled "Broad Spectrum SPF 30."
Prevention is key but is there anything you can do if you get a sunburn? One option is to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, to decrease the degree of redness and help with discomfort.  Topical steroids, such as over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, may also be helpful to decrease the inflammation.  Remember to give yourself adequate hydration with plenty of water and fluids as well.
You should see a doctor if you have extreme blistering, nausea, fever or signs of heat stroke (headaches, confusion, light-headedness, disorientation, seizures, and loss of consciousness).
Following these sun smart tips can help you have a safe and healthy summer for your skin!

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