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Clinical Corner: Love the Skin You’re In!

GettyImages 145058112 - Clinical Corner: Love the Skin You're In!
Summertime is almost here! So before you head out to enjoy the sunshine, refresh your memory with these top sun protection tips!

By Phil Niles, Clinical Nurse Manager, Medical Solutions

It’s spring! The long-awaited sun is shining, flowers are blooming (along with allergies), and our sun-starved winter skin is soaking up the rays! Feeling the glorious warmth of the sun is not just a welcome gift, it’s also beneficial to our health. For example, sunlight can alleviate sensitivity reactions to some autoimmune disorders like psoriasis, according to the National Institute of Health. Sunlight also stimulates Vitamin D production, increases our serotonin levels, and causes our bodies to release endorphins. In other words, the sun makes us all feel good!

Moderate sun exposure benefits our well-being, but, as anyone who has suffered from a sunburn before knows, too much sun exposure can be problematic. May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and with summer fast approaching, it’s more important than ever to know how to protect your skin.

Just look at these stats:

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • More than 90 percent of all skin cancer is caused by sun exposure.
  • 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • One in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. 
  • Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
  • A blistering sunburn during childhood DOUBLES the risk of melanoma as an adult.  
  • Men are twice as likely to develop skin cancer as women, and it is more common than prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer in men over 50.
  • Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day.

How to protect yourself:

The good news is that most cases of skin cancer are preventable. We just need to be more sun savvy and properly protect our bodies. Fortunately, we have sunscreen to protect us when we want to be out and about, smelling the flowers and feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin.

It’s important to separate sun protection facts from fiction and the first step is often understanding your sunscreen label. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher as one important part of a complete sun protection regimen. If you see “broad spectrum” and an SPF of 15 or higher on the label, you can be confident in the sunscreen’s ability to protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. Generic brands are okay — you don’t need to buy the most expensive sunscreen for it to work. However, sunscreen alone is not enough. Whenever possible, you should stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and wear hats and sun-protective clothing to limit your chances of too much sun exposure. You should also avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.

Travel Nurses may find themselves in different climates and may be misled about how much sun exposure they may be getting in their new environment. For example, states with higher elevations tend to have higher levels of ultraviolet radiation. Additionally, sun exposure can still occur with cloud cover and even when it isn’t warm outside. To be prepared, apply at least a shot glass full of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. The key to preventing a burn is to reapply every two hours. Keep small bottles of sunscreen with you to encourage reapplication. Keep some in your car, purse, backpack, etc. so you always have a ready supply for use just in case the sunshine is calling your name.

Yearly skin checks with a licensed dermatologist and doing your own skin checks can also help identify skin cancer or precancerous cells that can be dealt with early on and are considered highly treatable. Things to look for when checking your skin: a small lump, spot or mole that is shiny, waxy, pale in color, and smooth in texture, a red spot or mole that is firm, a sore or spot that bleeds or become crusty or doesn’t heal, rough and scaly patches on the skin, flat scaly areas of the skin that are red or brown, any new growth that is suspicious. Any of these should be examined by a doctor as soon as they are discovered.

Be a sun care role model:

Traveling healthcare professionals can use this month to raise awareness about skin cancer and help their patients act to prevent or detect it, both at home and in the community. As the most trusted profession, nurses are in an ideal position to be sun care role models and spread good habits to those around them. While encouraging sunscreen use, nurses can also partner with a local hospital, state fair, or similar organization to host or volunteer at a skin cancer screening event. Educating yourself and others will do everyone’s skin a favor. And that means we can fully enjoy the sun, knowing we have taken the appropriate steps to prevent overexposure.

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