Sunshine, Daydreams, and Your ABC’s

The St. Louis cold weather is making me dream of warmer days and the summer! I came across even more evidence to wear sunscreen on sunny days that I wanted to share.

Unfortunately, skin cancer in the most common cancer in the United States and it’s important that people are doing what they can to protect themselves.

There have been a number of studies that have pointed to the regular use of sunscreen may reduce the risk of melanoma. Recently there was an Australian case-control study including approximately 600 melanoma cases and 1100 controls aged 18 to 39 years found that high use of sunscreen during childhood was associated with a 40% risk reduction for developing melanoma before the age of 40 years, after adjusting for total sun exposure and other known risk factors. A similar risk reduction was noted for high lifetime use of sunscreen.

Intense sun exposure in childhood and early adulthood is a major risk factor for melanoma. Therefore, I educate children, young adults, and parents about consistent use of sun protection measures and the benefits. This should include application of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before you are exposed to the sun.

There is evidence that individuals at increased risk of melanoma and individuals highly exposed to sunlight should thoroughly apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, with an SPF of 15 for daily use and at least SPF 30 for intense sun exposure, before going out during daylight hours. However, many people don’t apply sunscreen correctly or inconsistent therefore the American Academy of Dermatology recommends the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 during sun exposure.

Here are some other strategies that you may want to consider implementing:

Clothing – Tightly woven fabrics and dark colors confer the highest UV protection. In addition, sun-protective clothes with designed ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) ranging from 15 to 50 are commercially available and can also be worn while swimming. Since sunscreen may not be applied as thoroughly or often as needed, sun-protective clothing is an effective alternative.

Using special window glass and films – Common window glass provides a variable degree of ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. Developments in the glass industry have resulted in the introduction of additional filters for ultraviolet A (UVA) and infrared radiation. Window films that can be applied to side windows of cars are also commercially available. These films should be compliant with state regulations in the United States or national regulations in other countries.

Using sunscreen-containing cosmetics – Cosmetics and moisturizers for daily use that contain broad-spectrum sunscreens may improve the compliance to photoprotection.

In the United States, the Skin Cancer Foundation has developed a list of products, including cosmetics, moisturizers, clothes and laundry additives, sunglasses, and window protection, that can provide sun protection.

And finally, everyone should be familiar with the old pneumonic that was developed originally developed by New York University dermatologists in 1985. If you know your ABCs, it is a good place to start.

ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border irregularities
  • Color variegation (presence of multiple shades of red, blue, black, gray, or white
  • Diameter ≥6 mm
  • Evolution: a lesion that is changing in size, shape, or color, or a new lesion (They added the E in 2004!)



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