Even with the layers of clothing worn when it’s cold outside, the
head, face and neck (where most skin cancers occur) are often left exposed
to the harmful effects of UV (ultraviolet) rays during the winter.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
So before you go frolicking in the snow, on a long run, or engaging in
outdoor activities this winter, the
MWHC Regional Cancer Center suggests you follow these guidelines to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Apply sunscreen to your face, chin and forehead. Pay extra attention to your nose. It is the most frequent site for skin
cancers of the head and neck. Apply extra sunscreen there or consider
a physical sunblock like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Remember “The
Rule of 3’s”:
- SPF 30 and above
- 30 minutes before you leave the house
Reapply every 2-3 hours.
Use a lip balm or gloss or stick with SPF to decrease your chances of lip cancer. Of all U.S. cancers, 0.6% are
on the lips. The lower lip receives more exposure to the sun and is at
a greater risk of developing a squamous cell carcinoma. Lip protection
also reduces chapping and peeling which can occur more often in the winter.
Cover your head. Studies have shown that melanoma of the head and neck have been more deadly
than melanomas in other areas of the body. Protect your head, neck and
scalp with hats. Wide brim hats can also cover your neck and ears. If
hats are not an option, sunscreen can be applied to the scalp in areas
where there are part lines, cowlicks or other areas with less hair coverage.
Wear earmuffs or fleece ear bands that cover your ears. Over exposure on the ears can cause a condition called actinic keratosis
that can lead to squamous cell carcinoma. Again, a wide brimmed hat can
provide head and ear coverage.
Cover your eyes. Skin cancers of the eyelids account for 5-10 percent of all skin cancers.
Protect your eyelids and surrounding eye areas by wearing sunglasses that
are large enough to cover the full eye area and that do not slip down the nose.
If you’re concerned that you may not have covered up as well as you
should have in the winter or the summer, and you see some suspicious spots
or markings on your skin, see a dermatologist.
Theresa Conologue with
Mary Washington Medical Group Dermatology provides offers these guidelines of when you should see a dermatologist:
- Yearly checks by your primary care physician or dermatologist
- Any spot that is bleeding, growing or not healing should be evaluated
- A pimple or dry patch of skin that never goes away, is growing or sometimes
bleeds should be evaluated
ABCDE’s of melanoma: If you notice spots that contain any of the
following characteristics, consult your physician or dermatologist as
soon as possible.