By Alia Tuqan, M.D.
July is designated as “UV Safety Month” to emphasize the importance of protecting skin and eyes, not only during summer’s hot, sunny days, but also year-round. Below is helpful information about skin and eye health.
The sun’s rays provide three types of energy: 1) light, 2) heat, and 3) ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can damage skin and eyes. Most people know that UV radiation is a major cause of skin cancer. However, UV radiation also can increase the risk of cataracts (clouding of eye lenses), leading to vision problems.
Sun exposure without protection can lead to sunburns and an increased risk of skin cancer, which can be serious. Less serious but cosmetically unappealing consequences include wrinkles and skin discoloration.
There are three major types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma; basal cell carcinoma; and melanoma. Each type involves once normal skin cells becoming abnormal ones. Squamous and basal cell carcinomas, also known as non-melanoma skin cancers, sometimes appear as non-healing wounds and ulcers. Melanomas can appear as unusual moles. Remember the “ABCDE rule” with melanomas:
A symmetry – one half does not match the other half.
B order – can be irregular.
C olor – may be more than one color or shade.
D iameter – can be greater than six mm.
E volution – shape and color may change over time.
If you have a skin growth or lesion that concerns you, visit your doctor. He or she can examine your skin and may take a biopsy (tissue sample) to make an accurate diagnosis. Treatment options for skin cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or other possibilities, depending on cancer type and stage of development.
There are simple things you can do to protect your skin and eyes and prevent skin cancer and vision problems:
• Wear sunscreen every day.
• Reapply it throughout the day, especially if you spend time in the water.
• Protect your head and face with wide-brimmed hats and your eyes with UV-protective sunglasses.
• Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, when outside.
• Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Avoid tanning salons.
Follow these simple steps for better skin and vision – and a healthier life!
Dr. Alia Tuqan is a board-certified geriatrician with the highly ranked UCLA Geriatrics Program in Santa Monica and Westwood. For more information, call 310.319.4371.