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Ashley Curtis MD, DermatologistSun can damage the skin easily by being out during certain times of the day. The most sun rays are going to be between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. So if you're able to avoid those times of the day, then that's great for protection. But most people are going to be out during those times.
So certain things that you can do to protect yourself would be to wear sunscreen, use some protective clothing, and then stay in the shade if you're able to. As far as sunscreen, the best way to do it is to apply it about 30 minutes before you're going to be in the sun
and then reapply every two to three hours. This application needs to be more frequent if you're going to be in lots of water or you're sweating. I recommend patients use at least an SPF 30 on their face year round. This does not mean that you just use a 30 if
you're going to be outside at the pool or you're going to be at the beach. I recommend a 50 or higher if you're going to be outside in the sun. Reapplication is key. So every two to three hours, reapply. But on a day to day basis, a 30 on your face is great.
So there are three main types of skin cancers. The most common type is a basal cell. This arises from one of the layers of skin at the top surface. The second type is a squamous cell. And this also arises from some of the cells at the top layer of the skin.
Basal cells and squamous cells are much less likely to move around or metastasize in the body. Melanomas, on the other hand, can and often will move around and metastasize in the body. That's why it's so important
to catch these early on and fully remove them if you can. An actinic keratosis, or pre cancer like we usually say, is an area of sun damage to the top layer of the skin. So the sun can cause damage to the skin on a day to day basis. But after a cumulative amount of damage,
the skin cells will become what we call an actinic keratosis. This means that they haven't quite turned into a skin cancer, but there's the possibility that it can. What you see as a patient for an actinic keratosis is an area that's more red or pink in color,
and it feels rough to the touch. A lot of times, I tell patients you can feel them even before you see them. Sometimes, they even become more red in the sun. Actinic keratoses do not turn into melanoma.
Actinic keratoses can turn into squamous cells, but possibly basal cells. Melanomas don't arise from actinic keratoses, because melanomas arise from cells that make color, which are different than the others.
So your ethnic background, your genetics, certainly play a role in whether or not you have a higher risk for skin cancers. Patients that are fair skinned, have red or light hair, or a light green, blue eyes certainly are at a higher risk for skin cancers. Family history plays a big role, as well.
If your mother, your father, your siblings have had skin cancer, you're also at a higher risk for skin cancer. However, anybody can get skin cancer. Certain people are just at a little higher risk.