Caring for the Largest Organ in your Body
Know what it is?
(If you answered “the skin,” you go to the top of the class!)
So, what’s its function? There are many, but to mention a few it:
- Prevents water loss
- Regulates body temperature
- Keeps germs out of your body
- Protects you from environmental hazards
While we embrace the moderate winter climate in Southwest Florida, it’s also known that most skin damage arises from UV radiation (over a lifetime) from the sun and tanning establishments. UV rays are mainly responsible for the three leading skin cancers:
- Basal Cell (often appears as a small pink growth or shiny bump or nodule)
- Squamous Cell (a persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders that sometimes crusts or bleeds; A wart-like growth that crusts and occasionally bleeds)
- Melanoma (having a mole with a variety of colors is a melanoma warning sign, but Amelanotic melanomas may appear as a pinkish-looking, reddish, purple, normal skin color or essentially clear and colorless!)
As you can see from the above descriptions, because of the similarity between these conditions, it is essential to get them checked; the sooner, the better. The earlier the treatment, the much better the outcome!
By age 70, 20% of us will experience skin cancer. Basil Cell, the most common, rarely spreads (but when it does, it happens more often in men than women) and usually appears on the head and neck. Squamous Cell is more dangerous because it spreads (metastasizes) more frequently than basil cells. Finally, Melanoma, by far the most dangerous, can and unfortunately often do, spread to anywhere in the body!
Sunscreen is an integral part of skin protection. The use of broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays. The frequent use of sunscreen delays the aging process, largely preventing pigmentation and decreasing the risk of skin cancer. Dermatologists recommend (SPF) 30 or above, which blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. It would be best to use sunscreen even on cloudy or rainy days because clouds do not block UVA.
Wherever possible, it is worth avoiding the sun, staying in the shade, and considering wearing protective clothing, especially wide-brimmed hats.
It is imperative to visit a dermatologist for skin screening at least annually. So please consider this an essential New year’s resolution!
“Better to be safe than sorry!”
The Engage Estero team thanks Dr. R.P. Belin, M.D., an Engage Estero’s Community Health Council member, for his wise words.