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Sun safety, skin cancer in spotlight as 1st day of summer arrives

Start of summer brings new focus on skin protection
Start of summer brings new focus on skin protection 02:43

Dermatologists want to make sure people are protecting themselves from the sun effectively as the first day of summer on Thursday has residents around the Bay Area eager to get outside and look forward to warmer weather. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer but remains one of the most common.

"I was on vacation for a couple of weeks and I was pretty negligent with my sunscreen, when I came back I found some new moles on my arms and so I got pretty concerned," said Angelica Gorban, a San Francisco resident. "So I came in today, got my skin checked and thankfully everything looks okay."

A recent survey by the American Academy of Dermatology revealed more than one-third of adults reported getting sunburn last year, the highest since 2020. Gorban says she has learned some common mistakes related to protecting your skin.

"Before I didn't know you were supposed to reapply your sunscreen, I would maybe apply it once in the morning and then go, you know, with my day and not reapply it," Gorban told KPIX. "But it doesn't last that long it only lasts a couple of hours so now I reapply it and I even apply it when I'm inside."

One additional step to protect your skin is an annual exam with a dermatologist. Gorban visited Dr. Malcolm Pyles at Berman Skin Institute in San Francisco this week after her recent trip. Dr. Pyles says it's always important to come in sooner than your annual exam if you are concerned about any abnormalities on your skin.

"A lot of people come to us for, you know, skin exams to make sure they don't have skin cancer but I also see an equal number of people who have had some damage through their lifetime, and spend a lot of time helping to undo wrinkles, fine lines, freckles and things like that," Pyles told KPIX. "All of those things could have been prevented if we just wore sunscreen from the very beginning."

He says you should use a product you're comfortable with but the industry recommendation is SPF 30 or higher. Dr. Pyles also points out that the sun's rays are the harshest between 10 a.m. And 4 p.m., especially during the summer. So it is important to seek shade and use hats and long-sleeved clothing when possible. Pyles says everyone needs to wear sunscreen each day, regardless of your age or skin color.

"It is true that people of color are less likely to develop a skin cancer, it is still very important to wear sunscreen just because the sun's rays are so damaging," he said.  

Sunscreen can reduce your chances of melanoma by 50 percent, according to Pyles. He says most skin cancers are not life-threatening but regular checks will make sure you treat any issues early to avoid further damage. Pyles also encourages using the "ABCDEs" of melanoma legions. He says to look at the Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter, and Evolving factors of any abnormalities in your skin.

Gorban is already looking forward to her summer plans even though cloud cover has been the weather theme going into the first day of summer in the city.  Pyles says it's important to remember that the sun's rays can still tan your skin or burn you through the clouds.

"I have been spending more time outside but I've been covering my arms and my legs with hoodies and pants and so it's nice to have a short-sleeve shirt on," Gorban said. "I'm looking forward to some summer trips and spending time in our parks in San Francisco."  

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