Sunscreen, the best defense against skin cancer?

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Barbecues, parades and fireworks. Chances are your plans for Independence Day will include an outdoor activity. No matter what your plans are, make sure you are prepared. Dermatologist Stewart West says just slapping on sunscreen doesn't cut it. “Sunscreen can often give you a false sense of security,” he says. West says Utah ranks among the top five states for diagnosed cases of skin cancer, but if caught early it’s easy to cure.

The most dangerous time to be outside is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Anytime our shadow is shorter than we are, the sun’s damaging rays are the strongest. Harmful rays can also be amplified when near water or sand. The best way to protect yourself is to apply sunscreen before going outside and re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days. Check the expiration date on sunscreens. If your sunscreen has expired, the active ingredients lose their effectiveness. The American Academy of Dermatology says wearing sunscreen can reduce your risk of skin cancer by half.

Don’t forget to wear protective clothing like hats and sunglasses and for the best protection wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. West says he’s starting to see a trend in the patients he sees, “more and more, young patients are starting to show up for skin cancer.”

If you notice a spot or mole on your skin that has changed in size, shape, color or shows any signs of irregularity, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

West says there are many treatment options available and avoiding the sun early on can be your best defense.

Jenniffer Michaelson


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