Bottom line: Wear sunscreen and cover up
By NORA AVERY-PAGE
H&N Staff Reporter
While Kramer typically works with patients with the worst or most unusual cases of skin cancer, he's more than familiar with the importance of prevention.
"It's a big issue," he said. Because of the thin atmosphere in the Klamath Basin, sun protection to prevent skin cancer is especially important, Kramer said.
There are three types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Basal cell skin cancer is the most common, while melanoma is the least, but the most deadly.
"Melanoma is a whole another ball game," he said.
Kramer usually treats skin cancer patients who have the worst or recurrent cases, or those who have spots in unusual places that cannot be surgically removed, like near the eyes or mouth. Typically, skin cancer cells can be removed by dermatologists, family practice doctors, or general surgeons, he said.
But Kramer wanted to emphasize it's important to not just slather on sunscreen before going out and then forget about it, but to be sure to reapply sunscreen, especially after swimming or sweating.
Important notes about sunburn
- The first signs of sunburn can take two to three hours to appear.
- Sunburn and sun damage can occur even on cloudy days and even under an umbrella or in the shade.
- Sunburn can occur after as little as 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure in a fair-skinned person.
- Tanning beds and sun lamps also can cause skin cancer and should be avoided.
- Contrary to popular belief, a tan will not protect your skin from sunburn or other skin damage.
Tips to heal and soothe sunburned skin
- Take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve pain. As you get out of the bathtub or shower, gently pat yourself dry, but leave a little water on your skin. Then, apply a moisturizer to help trap the water in your skin. This can help ease dryness.
- Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin. If a particular area feels especially uncomfortable, you may want to apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. Do not treat sunburn with "-caine" products (such as benzocaine), as these may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.
- Consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce swelling, redness and discomfort.
- Drink extra water. A sunburn draws fluid to the skin's surface and away from the rest of the body.
- If your skin blisters, allow the blisters to heal. Blistering skin means you have a second-degree sunburn. You should not pop the blisters, as blisters form to help your skin heal and protect you from infection.
- Take extra care to protect sunburned skin. Wear clothing that covers your skin when outdoors. Tightly-woven fabrics work best.
- If sunburn blisters cover a large area, such as your entire back, or if you have chills, a headache, or a fever, seek medical care immediately.
- Look for videos on how to treat sunburn, properly apply sunscreen and more here.
Sun protection tips
- Seek shade when appropriate. The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
- Wear protective clothing. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, wherever possible.
- Sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more, and it should be applied to all exposed skin areas. "Broad spectrum" provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. For maximum protection, reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
- Waterproof sunscreens offer approximately 80 minutes of protection in the water, and water-resistant products offer 40 minutes of protection.
- Apply to dry skin 15 minutes before exposure to the sun.
- At least 1 oz. (2 tablespoons or enough to fill a shot glass) of sunscreen is needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Most people only apply 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount, which decreases the achieved SPF.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after sweating, swimming, or towel-drying (even on cloudy days).
- Use a lip balm or lipstick with at least SPF 15.
- Sunscreens should be applied before insect repellents. DEET-containing insect repellents may decrease the SPF of sunscreens by one-third. Sunscreens may increase absorption of DEET through the skin.
Source: American Academy of Dermatology, the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, Mayo Clinic, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine.