May is the perfect month to plan summer’s must-do adventures, especially after an isolating start to spring, whether hiking Tumalo Mountain, biking Phil’s Trail, or fishing the Deschutes. Outdoor recreation under Central Oregon’s clear blue skies exposes skin to damaging UV rays, however, so May is also a time to protect your skin from melanoma and other skin cancers. Melanoma Awareness Month aims to educate people about the risks of excess sun exposure and empower them to seek early treatment for unusual spots or moles. Central Oregon has unusually high rates of skin cancer and melanoma, partly because of the altitude and the abundance of sunny days. “People in Bend spend their lives working and playing outdoors,” says Gerald Peters Jr., MD, FAAD, FACMS, of Peters Dermatology Center in Bend. “Our thin atmosphere is a poor filter—the ultraviolet rays are intense in every season,” he adds. Sunlight contains two types of damaging rays, known as Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA rays penetrate skin and cause tanning. They also break down elastic and collagen, causing premature wrinkles. UVB rays hit the skin surface, causing burns and blisters. Both types are associated with early aging and skin cancers. So how can you protect yourself?
1.) Early Detection
Dr. Peters recommends starting with a baseline skin exam, then developing an individualized care plan. “Proactive prevention is the best approach to avoid skin cancers,” says Dr. Peters. “Learn to monitor your skin and seek early treatment if needed – that’s the best way to convert a potentially serious problem into a temporary minor inconvenience.”
2.) Vitamin D
While UV rays do cause skin cells to convert pre-produce Vitamin D into its bioactive form, sunlight is not the only source for this essential nutrient. “Vitamin D is important for immune support, but it’s easily available through food and supplements, so why would anyone risk skin cancer to get enough Vitamin D?” says Dr. Peters. The average recommended daily dose of Vitamin D is 2000 units, or 50 micrograms.
3.) Sun Protection
Additional suggestions for reducing sun damage include packing a long-sleeved shirt and hat to shade the face and neck, heading indoors midday to avoid the most direct rays, and choosing a sunblock made with zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Be sure it’s broad spectrum, to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. No sunblock keeps working more than a few hours, so reapply generously.
Peters Dermatology Center
2041 NE Williamson Court, Suite B, Bend