The season of “fun in the sun” has arrived. And, as is often
the case, too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. Skin cancer is the
most common of all cancers, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the United
Risk factors for skin
- Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to
ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning booths
- Having pale skin that easily burns and having
natural red or blond hair
- You or other members of your family have had
- Multiple or unusual moles
- Severe sunburns in the past
Signs of possible
- Any change on your skin, especially in the size
or color of a mole, growth or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color)
- Scaliness, oozing, bleeding or a change in the
way a bump or nodule looks
- The spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its
border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark
- A change in sensation, such as itchiness,
tenderness or pain
How to prevent skin
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun between 10 AM
and 4 PM. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 (SPF 30 or higher is best). Apply
about a palmful at least 30 minutes before outdoor activities. Re-apply every
two hours or after swimming or sweating.
- Cover up with clothing, wear a brimmed hat and
wear sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
- Seek shade, especially in the middle of the day
when the sun’s rays are strongest. Teach children the shadow rule: if your
shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
Another danger of spending too much time in the hot sun is heat
exhaustion, which occurs when people are exposed to high temperatures,
especially when combined with strenuous physical activity and humidity. Body
fluids are lost through sweating, causing dehydration and overheating the body.
Symptoms of heat
- Skin is pale, cool and moist
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle cramps or pains
- Feeling faint or dizzy
If any of the above symptoms are present, the person should
stop physical activity, rest in a cool, shaded area, drink cool fluids (water
or sports drinks – no alcohol or caffeine), loosen or remove clothing and apply
cool water to skin.
If left untreated, heat exhaustion will progress to heat
stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency that happens when
the body’s cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, stops working and
the internal body temperature rises to the point at which brain damage or other
internal organs sustain damage.
Signs of heat stroke,
any of which require immediate medical attention:
- Difficulty breathing
- Unconsciousness that lasts for longer than a few
- Body temperature is 105 degrees or higher
- Confusion or anxiety
- Rapid heart rate
- Sweating has stopped and skin is hot, red and
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea
Finally, spending more time outside during warm weather also
means being bothered by pesky bugs, such as mosquitoes and ticks – both of
which can cause disease. In the United States, mosquitoes can transmit West
Nile virus and ticks can transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
To help prevent these illnesses, use an appropriate insect and tick repellent.
Look for a product that contains 20 percent DEET and make sure to apply it
properly. If mosquitoes are the biggest problem, look for products that contain
DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. You can also treat clothing
with permethrin, which protects through several washings.
Keep in mind that prime mosquito-biting hours are from dusk
to dawn. To reduce any mosquito problems in your yard, remove items that may
collect standing water – mosquitoes can breed in them in just days. To keep
ticks at a distance, avoid tick-infested areas – high grass areas and places
that have a lot of leaf-litter. Also, remove brush and woodpiles from around
After a day outside, shower as soon as possible and check
your body for ticks. Wash all clothing and be sure to check your pets for ticks,
too. If you find a tick attached, they can be easily removed with fine-tipped
tweezers. If you develop a fever, body aches, rash, headache, stiff neck or
fatigue in the 1-3 weeks after getting bit by a mosquito or tick, see your
healthcare provider right away.
Summer is arguably the most anticipated season of the year.
With a measure of precaution and common sense, it can also keep its reputation
of being the most fun season. Stay safe and have fun!
Cancer Society, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)