Summer is the time for long drives, late sunsets and the outdoors. However, direct and prolonged exposure to the summer sun can also result in sunburns and over time, skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and it is even more of a threat for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) because they have a higher risk of developing malignant melanoma. Skin cancer is preventable. Taking proper precautions and knowing what to look for can save your life. If promptly treated, early-stage melanoma can have a nearly 100 percent cure rate.
Here are some ways you can enjoy the sun year-round while protecting yourself from its rays:
Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Apply sunscreen daily before leaving your house, year-round. If you drive often, keep sunscreen in your car so that you can apply it to your hands before driving.
Examine yourself from head to toe. Melanoma can occur in hidden spots that can be easily overlooked. Once a month, look for odd marks and black spots on your skin and nails. Ask a loved one to help you for the areas you can’t see.
Know your spots. Look for a skin growth, mole or beauty mark that changes in size, color or texture.
Protect yourself from sun exposure. Wear protective clothes and a hat. Sunscreen alone may not be enough to protect you from direct sunlight.
Schedule a yearly screening with a dermatologist. At your annual visit ask your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. During the visual inspection point out any abnormal spots.
Be mindful of medications that increase sun sensitivity. The medication label or warning would list the drug as sun-sensitizing. These medications can increase your chances of sunburns.
Use sunscreen when around reflective surfaces. Water, snow and sand all reflect sun rays and increase sun exposure. Even in winter, these surfaces increase your odds of getting a sunburn.
Get treated. If diagnosed with skin cancer, get treated right away. Early-stage melanoma has a 98 percent survival rate.