Skin Cancer and Sun Safety Myths (Disproved!)

The following article was written by Make Big Change’s fantastic Summer Intern, Sara Bryn:

sunburn-facts-image
Today is a special day: it marks a full two weeks that I’ve been an intern for MBC!

So far, my job has consisted of doing surprisingly useful things; making phone calls, setting up presentation slides, putting stickers on sunscreen dispensers, researching sun protection apps, etc. (Although, so far, no drink runs; I’ve been woefully under-caffeinated.)

With the exception of “stickering” dispensers, almost everything I’ve done has required me to do some form of research, and, wow, I’ve stumbled across some concerning misconceptions on the internet. So, I’ve decided to properly inform the internet about skin cancer stuff! You can all thank me later.

“Skin cancer isn’t going to kill anyone.”

Wrong! So, so wrong. Over 76,000 people are estimated to be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2016 alone, while over 10,000 people are predicted to die from it.

“Okay, but having a tan lowers my risk of skin cancer, right?”

No, actually, having a tan increases your risk.

“But if I wear sunscreen, I won’t be able to absorb any vitamin D!”

See, everyone seems to think that you need several hours of sun exposure to get your weekly dose of vitamin D. In reality, you can get all the vitamin D you’ll need by rolling up your shirtsleeves and going outside for 10 minutes 2-3 times every week (but don’t try to get all of your vitamin D at once, or you could end up with a sunburn). That’s right: the human body can absorb more than enough vitamin D through the amount of skin on your forearms in a total of 30 minutes spread out over 7 days. Depending on where you work, that could very well be taken care of with the walk to and from your car each day.

“But what about the chemicals in sunscreen? Aren’t they also carcinogenic?”

No, otherwise they likely wouldn’t be on the market. While there are certainly a few studies that cite a noticeably increased cancer rate in sunscreen users, the general consensus is that most participants in those studies didn’t reapply. Therefore, people who thought that they were safe because they put on sunscreen, say, four hours ago, were actually not safe at all, because sunscreen isn’t a one-and-done kind of deal; it HAS to be reapplied. Now, the best sunscreens use a combination of a chemical block and a physical block to keep UV rays from burning you. Chemical blocks are the things on the ingredient list that you couldn’t pronounce to save your life, while physical blocks are things like zinc and titanium oxide. So, although people freak out because anything unpronounceable is “unsafe,” keep in mind that, A) your dermatologist wouldn’t be telling you to put something bad on your skin, and, B) that unpronounceable thing could very well be saving your life down the road.

“You know what, one sunburn doesn’t even matter. My skin will recover.”

Except for the fact, that, y’know, it won’t, a point best illustrated by this video. Your skin starts accumulating damage from the moment you got your first sunburn, it hasn’t stopped since, and unless you plan on somehow never going outside again, it never will. It’s worth remembering that if you’ve had more than five severe sunburns, your chances of being diagnosed with melanoma have already gone up by nine.

“Fine, sunburns = bad. I’ll just get my healthy glow from a tanning salon, then.”

No, no, no, no. Please don’t. You see, tans also cause skin damage. In fact, think of every minute you spend in a tanning bed as a minute spent in the desert without sunscreen: the UV exposure levels are just about equal, and the end result will likely be just as painful. If you absolutely must have some appearance of a tan, try going for some kind of tinted moisturizer or self-tanner. Contrary to popular belief, most of them aren’t bad for you and a few (at least Jergen’s and Neutrogena) won’t give you a skin tone on par with that of an Oompa Loompa.

“Alright, fine, I get it. On another note, I have this one mole that just popped up. I’m not too worried about it, though, because it’s the only one I have, so it’s not like it could be a skin cancer, right?”

There’s a saying around here that goes something like, “See spot. See spot change. See dermatologist.” Just because it’s your only mole, doesn’t mean it’s benign. Always get new moles checked out!

So, in short, wear sunscreen (yes, even on cloudy days, and no, it won’t kill you), keep an eye on your skin, avoid tanning booths like the plague, and, most importantly of all, remember that SPF is your BFF.

Don’t Fry Today, Don’t Fry Tomorrow – Here’s to National “Don’t Fry Day”

May 27th, 2016. The final Friday of the month. The Friday leading in to Memorial Day weekend – a weekend that is the general start to summer. A weekend that see’s many of us outside sitting, playing, barbequing, swimming, boating, riding bikes… In large part, “soaking up the sun.”

In the spirit of that: May 27th also happens to be National “Don’t Fry Day.” Get it? No? Well, allow us to learn you a thing or two… It starts with the sun’s UV rays, and the part those rays play in the development of skin cancer. Sorry to kill the mood for a minute. But seriously, you need to think about your skin before you start lazing around outside, letting the sun literally fry your largest organ like a salted pork rind.

dont-fry-day

Will Ferrell is funny. Burnt skin is not.

Here’s the good news: Skin cancer is a largely preventable disease

Okay, more bad news: It can also be deadly.

Skin cancer continues to be the most common type of cancer in the nation, with almost 5 million cases being diagnosed in the United States alone last year. That’s more than breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers combined. That’s right, COMBINED.

There for, we have “Don’t Fry Day” as a simple reminder to educate you, the public. “Don’t Fry Day” aims to reduce the incidence of skin cancer by promoting sun safety and encouraging people to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors.

In 2014, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office issued a Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer due to the increasing rates of skin cancer in this country. Have you read it yet? (Probably not… It’s okay.) To sum it up in a neat little nutshell, then Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., stated, “The rates of skin cancer in our nation are increasing, creating a serious public health concern we cannot ignore.”

Following the trend of many states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now considering a proposed rule banning the use of sunlamp products among minors. This would be great progress toward the prevention of skin cancer. In fact, we took to the stand and played a part in getting sun tan bed use banned for kids under 18-years-of-age in our fair state of New Hampshire. We also marched right to the capital and had governor Maggie Hassan sign a proclamation introducing the entire month of May as “Melanoma Awareness Month” here in the Granite State.

Remember this when you set out to obtain that bronzed skin look so many American’s long for as the days turn to sunny summer fun: There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Whether in direct sun or by exposure to harmful UV radiation from tanning beds or sun lamps, individuals are damaging their skin and increasing their risk of skin cancer. A tan is a clear indicator of skin damage, not health. There’s not a lot of beauty in that, eh? (Sorry.)

While the skin needs sunlight to help manufacture vitamin D, important for normal bone health, overexposure to UV light can be detrimental by damaging and killing skin cells. If you want to be safe, there exists the recommendation by The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to obtain healthy vitamin D levels through supplements and certain foods.

Protecting yourself. It seems obvious, but the reality is, a lot of us aren’t taking action.

Here’s how you can help yourself from frying, not just on National “Don’t Fry Day,” but any day:

  • Wear Sunscreen – This simple action can save your skin, and potentially your life. Use a water-resistant sunscreen with 30 SPF or above, and remember to re-apply every couple hours, especially during intense activity.
  • Remember the Less Obvious Body Parts – Don’t forget those ears, shoulders, neck, lips, and the top of the head -regardless of your hair, the sun finds its way through any small window.
  • Wear Sun Protective Clothing – Wear a shirt. Lighter colored fabrics may feel cooler on the skin, but darker fabrics actually work better to shield and deflect UV radiation. For the head and neck, consider a sun hat or bandana. And don’t forget sunglasses. Your eyes are important too.
  • Consider Spending Time Outdoors During Off-Peak Hours – Though lunchtime is sometimes one of our only free hours of the day, it’s also when UV rays are strongest. Avoiding the 10am-4pm timeframe is strongly recommended. Set that alarm a little earlier and get your morning run in before work, or wait until after you’ve digested your dinner…
  • Use Extra Caution Near Water and Sand – These surfaces reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn. It’s true.

Okay, in parting, let’s lighten this up a bit… Enjoy your Memorial Day celebrations.
Bring on summer!

In Remembrance: Dr. James Campbell

Dermgroup1It is with great regret that we announce the passing of our founder and fearless leader, Dr. James L. Campbell Jr., who passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on Sunday, April 10th.

A true humanitarian, and passionate physician, Dr. Campbell spent the entirety of his 53 years at the service of others around him, working tirelessly to make sure his family, staff, patients, and friends were taken care of – always putting others before himself, serving his self-proclaimed motto, “we take care of our own.”

Dr. Campbell founded Dermatology & Skin Health in 2001, and co-founded the Skin Health Medi-Spa in 2005. He had also served as an associate professor at Dartmouth College since 2000, and was a valued author in the medical field, writing and contributing to over 50 books, articles, and studies related dermatology.

Volunteering for such organizations as Casting for Recovery, the Annual MS Challenge Walk with his beloved “Minion Milers,” and even co-founding his own non-profit, Make Big Change, in 2014 to raise awareness and preventative measures in relation to skin cancer and proper skin health – Dr. Campbell worked diligently to make a difference in the greater community he was entrenched in.

james_campbell

Campbell’s spirit will continually be felt around the practice, as well as at Fenway Park where he was a season ticket holder, spending many a day rooting for his Boston Red Sox.

Dr. Campbell was recognized with the Amanda Dempsey Award last October – an award given annually to an individual cancer survivor demonstrating a passion for helping and working with others battling the disease. He himself was a two-time melanoma survivor.

While we mourn this greatly devastating loss, we want to assure everyone that the legacy of James L. Campbell will forever live on – through Dermatology & Skin Health, and with the work we will continue to do in our community through Make Big Change and other outlets. His work is our work, and we will yield at nothing to see it through.

In lieu of flowers, community members are invited to donate to the James L. Campbell “Making Big Change” fund which will be used to actively serve the initiatives he was most passionate about.

For further information, and to donate to the fund, please contact Dermatology & Skin Health Practice Administrator, Laurie Seavey, at 603.674.8156 or via email at l.seavey@dermskinhealth.com.

Arrangements celebrating Dr. Campbell’s life will be announced as soon as they have been finalized.campbell-fishing_sm