Maintain sun protection and skin cancer awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic

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While spending most of their time indoors, it’s instinctive for people to gravitate toward natural light sources, like windows and skylights; however, it’s important to exercise caution as sunlight streaming through glass can still harm skin. Valley News/Courtesy photo

NEW YORK CITY – The spread of the coronavirus has sparked concern worldwide and prompted many leaders to take decisive action to contain the virus. Several states have mandated citizens to stay home from work, socially distance and remain indoors, meaning people have found their time outside has been drastically reduced. Although they may not be exposed to direct sunlight as often, The Skin Cancer Foundation advised everyone to remain vigilant in regard to protecting their skin and checking their body for suspicious lesions.

While spending most of the time indoors, it’s instinctive to gravitate toward places at home that receive natural light, like windows and skylights. It’s important to exercise caution while enjoying this little slice of the outdoor world, however – sunlight streaming through glass can still harm the skin. Two types of UV light are proven to contribute to the risk for skin cancer: ultraviolet A, which has a longer wavelength, and ultraviolet B, which has a shorter wavelength. UVA and UVB rays can cause sunburns and tanning, but UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, which can contribute to signs of premature aging, like dark spots and wrinkles. They’re also better at finding people.

“UVA rays can penetrate window glass, meaning you can still be at risk of exposure while inside,” Dr. Deborah S. Sarnoff, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation, said. “Even when home, it’s important to be cognizant of UV radiation and apply sunscreen to the face and exposed areas of the body.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommended using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher for daily use, especially if people are going to be working right by a window. Try placing the sunscreen bottle in the bathroom beside the toothbrushes so it is easily accessible while getting ready in the morning, as it might be difficult to remember to apply otherwise.

For indoor workers who receive a significant amount of incidental sun exposure, it’s important to reapply sunscreen, especially before going outside for breaks or errands. Gain additional protection by pulling down the window shade during peak sun hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., installing UV-protective window film and covering up with clothing.

While preventing skin damage that can lead to skin cancer is imperative, now is also a good time to revisit skin cancer warning signs and perform at-home skin exams. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommended residents examine their skin head-to-toe every month, and all they need is a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, two chairs or stools, a blow-dryer, paper and a pencil. They should look for anything new, changing or unusual on the skin and reach out to a dermatologist if they see something concerning. Learn more about skin cancer warning signs and how to perform a self-exam at https://www.TheBigSee.org.

If a resident’s dermatologist is no longer seeing patients in the office or is extra busy due to COVID-19, see if the doctor offers any teledermatology options. Teledermatology is a rapidly developing subspecialty using the latest technology to allow patients better access to high-quality dermatologic care without traveling to the clinic. If there’s a medical emergency, people should still try to get in to see a dermatologist as soon as possible. But for non-emergencies, they can use teledermatology to help when it comes to skin cancer.

First, take photos of anything new, changing or unusual on the skin and monitor it over time. There are apps that will send a monthly reminder to check on the spot to see if it has evolved.

Share the photos with the dermatologist who can look them over virtually and provide advice over the phone. They will determine if the person needs to come into the office or not.

If they’ve recently been treated for skin cancer, their dermatologist can provide follow-up care over the phone or via video sessions.

The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. Since its inception in 1979, the foundation has recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use. For more information, visit https://www.SkinCancer.org.

Submitted by The Skin Cancer Foundation.