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Middletown Regional Hospital Offers Sun-Safety Tips for Summer

Memorial Day — the unofficial beginning of summer — is fast approaching and, with it, the time is here for fun in the sun! But while the sun's rays may keep you warm and lift your spirits, exposure to them also can lead to skin cancer.

"Damage to skin, the body's largest organ, is cumulative," says Jennifer Ridge, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and member of Middletown Regional Hospital's medical staff. "Years of harmful ultraviolet radiation from exposure to the sun increases the risk for skin cancer later in life. But the good news is, caught early, many skin cancers are highly treatable and largely preventable."

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, because it can spread to internal organs. But it, too, is highly treatable when detected early. Here are the ABCDs of melanoma to help catch it early.

  • Asymmetry: One half of a mole or skin spot is different than the other half, and it grows in size.
  • Border: Edges are irregular, ragged, blurred or notched.
  • Color: Pigmentation varies — brown and black with red, white, or blue creating a mottled appearance.
  • Diameter: Width is greater than six millimeters — about the size of a pencil eraser.

Experts at Middletown Regional Hospital suggest everyone take precaution when spending outdoor time this summer. Regardless of age, it's always important to protect the skin from sun damage. Here are some useful tips from the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • Sunscreen is your friend. Use at least SPF 15 on exposed areas of the body. Infants under age six months should be kept out of the sun entirely.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply it every two hours or more frequently if swimming or sweating.
  • People with fair complexions should consider zinc oxide on sensitive areas like the nose, lips, tops of ears or feet. Avoid tanning oils or baby oil. With these products, the skin is more susceptible to burning.
  • Overcast outside? Don't be fooled. Damaging UV rays filter through clouds and haze causing intense burning.
  • Consider clothing. A wide-brimmed hat is best to shade the face. Sun glasses are critical to protect eyes from harmful glare. Tightly woven fabric, like unbleached cotton or twill, shields the skin from UV rays. Wet t-shirts do not protect from the sun.
  • Sunlamps and tanning booths are unsafe long-term. These contribute to skin cancer, as well.

And if you see changes in your skin that concern you, see your medical professional at once.