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Health Information Play it Safe in the Sun

Wallet? Check. Car keys? Check. Sunscreen? Well, if you're heading outdoors, you ought to have that, too.

Even on overcast days, UV rays are out there doing a number on your skin. And prolonged exposure is the key cause of most skin cancers.

Vassilios Dimitropoulos, MD, a dermatologist at Rush, recommends applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 when you head outdoors, and reapplying it every 90 minutes to two hours.

Clarence Brown Jr., MD, also a dermatologist at Rush, suggests wearing hats and long-sleeve shirts outdoors. And if you have to spend time out in the direct sunlight, it's best to head out early or later in the day when the sun is less intense.

Tempted as some may be to add a little color to their pasty-white skin, there's no such thing as a healthy tan.

"All suntanning and sunburning, which is the most extreme form, represents damage to the skin," Brown says. "That tan is really a cry for help from your skin asking for more sunscreen."

In addition to being vigilant about sun protection, these doctors stress the importance of regularly checking your skin for signs of cancer, and getting regular skin screenings by a dermatologist.

The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma—by far the most common—squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.

"Certainly melanoma is the most aggressive of the three in terms of its ability to metastasize and cause mortality," Dimitropoulos says. "But all three warrant attention and removal in a prompt manner."

Dimitropolous and Brown advise using the "ABCD" guide—keeping an eye out for asymmetry, border irregularity and changes in color or diameter on moles.

"Every skin cancer, if caught early, is entirely curable," Brown says. "No one ever needs to die of melanoma."


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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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