Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Doctors Emphasize the Importance of Sunscreen Usage

SAN ANTONIO – May marks National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and doctors at the START Center for Cancer Care say the biggest way to protect yourself against the disease is to wear sunscreen.

“Sunburns have been correlated with getting skin cancer later on in life,” said Dr. Alexander Miller, Surgical Oncologist at The START Center for Cancer Care.

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Sunscreen is important because it protects the sun’s harmful UV Rays from getting into our skin. The American Cancer Society says the rays from the sun can damage the DNA in our cells, which in turn can lead to cancer developing.

It’s not just rays from the sun that can damage our skin. UV Rays from tanning beds are considered highly dangerous for our health.

“There’s been a myth for a long time that tanning beds are safer than being in the sun, that is absolutely not correct, tanning beds should be avoided at all costs,” said Dr. Amanda Bucheit, Medical Oncologist at The START Center for Cancer Care.

Avoiding a tanning bed is an easy task, but we can’t avoid being out in the sun. If you start to notice the following symptoms, it may be best to call your doctor and get checked for skin cancer:

  • Darkening of the skin
  • New spot that isn’t going away

“If there’s something that not going away in a couple of weeks, you definitely should see your doctor,” Dr. Miller said.

  • Asymmetry of a mole or spot
  • Discoloration
  • The diameter of the spot or mole is growing

“Anything over 6 millimeters, which is like the size of a pencil eraser, that is something that’s more concerning,” said Dr. Bucheit.

When you’re outside, keep your skin covered with protective clothing and hats, but most importantly wear sunscreen.

Dr. Bucheit says everyone should wear sunscreen daily, even if it is cloudy and cool outside. She says up to 80% of UV Rays can penetrate through clouds, burning your skin.

When you are wearing sunscreen, it’s important to remember the following tips:

  • Reapply every two hours.
  • Let it dry before getting in any water.
  • The highest UV Rays are usually between the hours of 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
  • Doctors recommend using a lotion instead of the spray sunscreen, as lotion has more coverage.
  • Make sure your sunscreen isn’t expired.

“Every season check the expiration dates of your sunscreen because if it’s expired, it’s not worth the risk. I’d actually throw it away and buy new ones,” Dr. Bucheit said.

When it comes to skin cancer, Dr. Miller says there are three main types.

Dr. Miller says most skin cancers are curable, especially if diagnosed early. Melanoma and Merkel Cell Carcinoma, what Jimmy Buffett died from, can be deadly.

Depending on how far along your skin cancer diagnosis is, treatment could include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Skin Cancer is considered the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States per year. Dr. Bucheit says one in five people will be diagnosed with the disease by the age of 70.

Here in San Antonio, Dr. Miller says the number of skin diagnoses is rising every year. In fact, the 1st quarter of 2024 has 40% more skin cancer diagnoses than the 1st quarter of 2023.

“Skin cancer does not discriminate. It can happen to anybody,” said Dr. Bucheit.

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