With summer rapidly approaching, we’re taking a look at some of the strategies our dermatologists can incorporate in their practices to help patients protect themselves from the sun.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide, and 1 in 5 patients will develop this disease by the age of 70. However, we can help prevent this deadly disease by introducing preventative measures in our practices and to our patients.
With summer rapidly approaching, we’re taking a look at some of the strategies our dermatologists can use to help patients protect themselves from the sun.
What prevention strategies should dermatologists be recommending to their patients?
- Stay out of the sun and avoid burning: A patient’s risk of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, can double after five or more sunburns. Seeking shade during the sun’s peak hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. can help combat the risk of skin cancer.
- Wear sunscreen: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a product that is water-resistant, contains broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Protect your skin: Along with wearing sunscreen and frequently reapplying it, some strategies include avoiding indoor tanning beds and covering up with densely woven, bright- or dark-colored fabrics and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Frequent examination: It’s recommended that you encourage patients to see a physician annually for a general skin exam, and to frequently administer self-exams, and to see a physician immediately if they notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious. Dermatologists should encourage patients to use the ABCDE method, broken down as follows:
- A for Asymmetry: Dermatologists will often check to see if spots are symmetrical on both sides when identifying a cancerous growth
- B for Border: Moles and spots with blurry and/or jagged edges can be a sign of a cancerous or pre-cancerous growth
- C for Color: Moles with several colors can be indicative or a potentially cancerous growth
- D for Diameter: Any growth exceeding ¼ inch, about the size of a pencil eraser, should be checked by a dermatologist
- E for Elevation: This refers to whether or not the growth is raised and has an uneven surface. If so, that could be a red flag for patients
What strategies should physicians be adopting in their practices?
- Encourage collaborative care: Especially if a patient receives a skin cancer diagnosis, regular communication between the patient’s dermatologist, oncologist, primary physician, pharmacist, and all other health-related specialties can help patients stay informed and help clinicians develop a well-rounded, informed treatment plan.
- Don’t rush a treatment decision: Patients will sometimes want a second opinion or time to make an informed decision with friends and family. Prioritize giving the patient management strategies and treatment options rather than jumping into a treatment plan.
- Provide helpful resources: Patients may be unaware of the risk of burning or sun damage, and if they do develop skin cancer, may not know what their options are. It’s important for the clinician to provide all of the options to the patient and prepare medical navigational assistance and related support resources and services for your patients to help guide them through the process.
Summertime puts patients at an increased risk of sun damage, but incorporating these recommendations is an important safety-measure year-round. Winter sport activities such as snowboarding and skiing also put patients at risk for developing burns, skin damage, and melanoma.
There are a number of ways you can help your patients protect themselves from the sun and adopting these strategies into your practice and relaying these recommendations to your patients can help them take strides towards staying safe.