Sun Exposure and Cancer Risk

Last Modified: March 22, 2012

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Question

I work outside most of the year, how can I avoid getting skin cancer?

Answer

Gloria DiLullo, MSN, CRNP, OncoLink Content Specialist, responds:

Even though you must work outside, can do a lot to protect yourself from damaging UV rays and to detect skin cancer early. Start by practicing sun safety, including using a broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects against UVA & UVB rays) every day, avoiding peak sun times (10am-4pm, when the rays are strongest)-when possible, and wearing protective clothing such as hats, sunglasses and long sleeved shirts.

Performing a skin check for suspicious skin lesions does not require any x-rays or blood tests -- just your eyes and a mirror. Examine your skin regularly so you become familiar with any moles or birthmarks. If a mole has changed in any way, including a change in size, shape, or color, has developed scaliness, bleeding, or oozing, or has become itchy or painful, or you develop a sore that will not heal, you should have a healthcare provider examine the area. If you have many moles, it may be helpful to make note of moles using pictures or a mole map. SkinCancerNet has a helpful guide to performing a skin exam (http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/skin_examinations.html).

Learn more about the types of skin cancer on OncoLink and the American Academy of Dermatology's SkinCancerNet and the Skin Cancer Foundation.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Cancer Risk & Prevention Webchat transcript.


Vitamin D, sun safety

Getting Vitamin D Safely

Question

If sun exposure is bad for you, how are we to get enough vitamin D?

Answer

Charles B. Simone, II, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Penn Medicine responds:

Sun exposure, in moderation, is actually very good for your health. Vitamin D has been linked to bone health and potentially as a means for decreasing the risk of developing other disease like cancer. For most, sun exposure is the primary means of getting Vitamin D, although some people with decreased bone density may need oral supplements of Vitamin D. The best compromise to avoid direct sun exposure during peak times of the day, particularly 11 am to 3 pm. Sun exposure at other times may be less harmful but still provide enough Vitamin D. In addition, of course, use sunscreen.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Cancer Risk & Prevention Webchat transcript.