Some prescriptions, such as antibiotics and acne medication, can make the skin more sensitive to sun damage. Skin cancer develops in response to prolonged sun exposure and burning. Melanocytes in the deeper layers of the epidermis (skin) grow and form a tumor called a melanoma. The melanoma can then spread throughout the body and mutate into a fatal form of skin cancer. Adequate sunscreen and limited exposure to the sun are excellent weapons to fend off skin cancer.
The Dangerous Side of Sun Damage
The summer sun means it’s time to get a tan. But getting too many rays can put your life at risk.
Shelly, a nurse who has worked in a dermatologist’s office, is a self-proclaimed tanning addict. She tells people she has an allergy to sunscreen, even though she doesn’t, to keep the lotion away from her body. Shelly even goes so far as to put Crisco and butter on her face for a deeper tan. “That’s because I know the dermatologists can cure it,” she says. “I’m laying on the foil, and I’m rubbing the stick of butter on my legs.”
Shelly doesn’t believe she will get the skin cancer known as melanoma. “That’s my thinking,” she says. “I don’t know that for sure, but the past four years, I’ve got [forms of cancers] Squamaous cell and Basal cell cut off. They cut it off. Once I had to go back to have a little more taken around the edges and little stitches, but it’s covered up. Now, if you take a piece out of my nose, and I have to have a skin graft, [that's a] different story.”
Shelly also encourages her young daughter to tan, as well. While she puts sunscreen on her daughter, Shelly admits that she does not apply it as much or as often as she should.
“When it comes to your daughter, that’s where we have to set the limits,” plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon says. “You’re taking her out with you tanning, putting on sunscreen, probably [not enough]. It has to be at least a 30 [SPF]. She’s saying, ‘Hey, Mommy, Mommy, I have a tan line just like you do now.’ You’re really sending the wrong message there.”
Fifty to 80 percent of a person's lifetime of sun exposure occurs before the age of 18, so it is important to protect your children from harmful UV rays. "[When] we were kids, we got all the sun we wanted and we didn't know how damaging it was," pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says.
"But now we know just how serious it is."
"We know it's that sun you get early on, the sun damage, that will come back to bite you years later in the form of skin cancer," Dr. Ordon says. "Especially melanoma, which we know is the most serious form of skin cancer."
To help guard children from dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays, LuvGear created sun-sensitive clothing. The garments sense how strong the sun is and alerts the wearer when UV ray exposure has reached a harmful level.
LuvGear is available at select JC Penney and Sears stores in the United States and Canada.
UV Skin Protection
A new article of clothing not only protects against sun damage, but promises to treat it as well. Yelo Mod hat by Sun Soul uses fluorescent technology that allows the sun’s healthy rays to reach the skin, but blocks the harmful UV rays.
Practice sun safety! The most harmful UV rays of the day are 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Whenever you’re out in the sun for extended periods of time, protect yourself with a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and protective clothing.
Sunlight HazardsEye surgeon Dr. Kerry Assil, from the Assil Eye Institute in Beverly Hills, California, joins The Doctors to answer your sunlight-related questions.
Learn the dangers of looking directly at the sun.
Why are you blinded when going indoors after being out in the glowing sun?
• Stare at the white square in the middle of the box above for 20 seconds, and then look at the white space to the right of it. Notice how you see blue squares. Click here to find out why!
Skin Cancer Statistics
Skin cancer affects approximately 1 million people per year and is the most common form of cancer in America. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It begins as a tumor in the melanocyte cells, which produce melanin, a pigment found in skin, hair and eyes. If undetected, the cancer can spread rapidly.
Ninety percent of skin cancer is caused by exposure to the sun's harmful rays. Dr. Ordon and E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork discuss the best ways to protect your skin. Early detection is the key to surviving any cancer, and skin cancer is no exception.
Dermatologist Dr. Glynis Ablon demonstrates how digital mole mapping works. Mole mapping allows dermatologists to monitor their patients’ skin with greater precision.
Doctors recommend having a dermatologic exam once a year. “Check your birthday suit on your birthday!” Dr. Ablon says.
• Learn how to protect your hair and scalp from sun damage and skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Breakthrough
Dr. Steven O’Day, Director of the Melanoma Program at the Angeles Clinic and Research Institute in Los Angeles, California, shares information about Ipiliumab, a new drug developed for the treatment of melanoma. Ipiliumab is currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration.
• See a light treatment that can destroy pre-cancerous cells and help ward off skin cancer.
• Go inside The Doctors' Sun Damage Spa to see at-home treatments for younger looking skin!