Tag Archives: skin cancer

Sunburn Care 101

Sunburns are among the most commonly suffered summer afflictions. They can range from minor burns causing irritation for a couple days, to severe sunburns which may consist of painful blisters. It is important to know the dangers of sunburns, and to be able to properly assess your sunburn to determine if you need medical treatment or can simply take care of it with remedies and basic first-aid-kit measures.

Can Sunburns Cause Skin Cancer?

Yes, sunburns can contribute to the development of skin cancer. A sunburn (or even suntan) results from overexposure to harmful ultraviolet rays, usually from the sun. Severe sunburns cause irreparable damage to skin cells which can lead to skin cancer. Even minor sunburns can cause problems down the line if UV ray overexposure continues. According to the American Cancer Society, a person’s risk of contracting skin cancer nearly doubles if they have sustained 5 or more sunburns in the past. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Over 3.5 million cases are treated annually in the United States, many of which can be attributed (at least in part) to sun damage.

What Other Risks Can Sunburns Pose?

Aside from increasing your skin cancer risk, sunburns can also cause other serious complications such as severe skin blistering and burns, dehydration, loss of fluids and even skin or systemic infection if left unchecked. In rare and extreme cases serious sunburns can even lead to shock or death if not treated.

When To Seek Medical Attention for a Sunburn

If your sunburn goes beyond the usual redness and irritation, it may be worth getting a checkup. According to Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson, if you are experiencing fever, chills, headache or pain, vomiting or diarrhea, excessive sweating, pus or other signs of skin infection be sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Tips To Soothe The Burn

Luckily most sunburns do not require medical attention and respond well to at-home treatments. Some remedies that have proven effective for treating minor sunburns include:

  • Retreat from the sun’s wrath – This may seem like an obvious one, but sometimes people don’t take the hints their bodies give them. If you notice you’ve been burned, get inside as soon as you can as further sun will only worsen the burn.
  • Cold on Hot – Apply a cold compress (not ice cold) to the effected skin to help reduce or prevent inflammation. A cold shower is also a good idea to help cool off the skin.
  • Aloe Vera to the rescue – You’ve probably already heard that Aloe Vera, known as the “burn plant” can actually help reduce severity and speed up sunburn recovery.
  • Moisturize – It can help to replenish some of the moisture lost by your skin by applying a gentle skin moisturizer.
  • Reach for the NSAIDs – Try OTC anti-inflammatories to help bring down some of the inflammation and help decrease pain and discomfort in the first couple days of healing.
  • Hydrate – Bad sunburns can suck moisture and even electrolytes from the body so it is important to replenish lost fluids!
  • Be gentle as you heal – Try wearing loose fitting clothing, and patting your skin dry after a shower instead of rubbing it. Being gentle will help your skin heal faster.
  • Try cucumber or green tea – Cucumber and green tea both have soothing, anti-inflammatory properties, so applying a cooled green tea compress or sliced cucumber piece to the effected area may help reduce discomfort.
  • Take extra precautions Since your skin has been damaged, you definitely want to avoid future sunburns or irritation to that area, be sure to apply 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen to exposed skin whenever you are outside, reapplying every 2 hours. For more sunburn prevention tips check out our Summer Skincare

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Medical Mythbusters #2 – Skin Cancer Edition

We recently started a Medical Mythbuster feature (check out Mythbusters #1 if you didn’t catch it), so here is our second edition on skin cancer myths and facts. Check out these common skin cancer beliefs and try to guess from the title if they are true or false before reading further. Let’s see how many you get right!

Skin cancer is caused solely by UV damage from the sun or an alternative light source.


MYTH. Less frequently, skin cancer also develops on areas of the body that have not been exposed to harmful ultraviolet rays. These spots of cancer may be explained by environmental hazards, radiation and genetic predispositions, skin complexion, an abundance of problematic moles or a combination thereof.

Only fair skinned people develop skin cancer.


MYTH. While skin cancer afflicts people with very fair skin much more frequently (approximately 40-50% of very fair-skinned people will have at least one cancer spot in their lifetime), it can still strike people of all skin types. Unfortunately, when people with darker skin get skin cancer, the symptoms are not as evident until the disease has progressed, so it is important for everyone to periodically check their skin for changes no matter that skin type they have.

Only one type of UV ray is dangerous.


MYTH. UVA rays infiltrate the dermis (deeper layer of the skin) leading to signs of aging and wrinkles over time as well as immune system problems (which can help indirectly contribute to illnesses like cancer), while UVB rays are responsible for burning the epidermis which can lead more directly to skin cancer.

You can get skin cancer in the winter.

FACT. Believe it or not, you are not immune to the sun’s nasty consequences just because it there is ice and snow around. The sun can shine just as brightly in the winter as in the summer. Because people let their guard down and don’t don sunscreen while outside in the winter, it can sneakily lead to the development of skin cancer. It is important to wear sunscreen on exposed skin year-round while spending time outside (especially important for those who snowboard or do outdoor activities frequently). Similarly, overcast days can be just as dangerous as sunny days. People take less precautions, but the clouds do not protect you from the sun’s hidden wrath. So wear sunscreen all the time – better safe than very, very sorry!

You can get skin cancer on your lips too.


FACT. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “The lips are a not uncommon, but often overlooked site for nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSC), including the two most common skin cancers, basal and squamous cell carcinoma (BCC and SCC). Most frequently occurring in fair-skinned males over the age of 50, cancer of the lip comprises approximately 0.6 percent of all cancers in the US.” So be sure to protect your lips as well (you can buy various types of invisible SPF lip balm).

Skin Cancer is rare.


MYTH. It is the most common form of cancer in the United States. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime, the vast majority of these cases will have been caused by UV light overexposure.

Base tans are actually dangerous, not beneficial.


FACT. Base tans are definitely more dangerous than people give them credit for. Most people think they are doing themselves a service by pre-tanning before vacationing, however any color from the sun is actually doing varying degrees of damage and may be setting the stage for future issues such as skin cancer. Especially if you are doing so in a tanning bed. They have proven to be just as dangerous as the sun, if not more so.

Well that concludes our Medical Mythbusters #2 – Skin Cancer feature! How did you do? Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any questions or concerns about skin cancer or sun damage, don’t hesitate to sign up to speak to one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians via video chat today!



10 Summer Sun Skincare Tips

  1. Avoid ‘Peak Sun’ Hours

    Between 10 and 4pm are the hours when the sun is hottest. If you can’t avoid prolonged exposure during this time on hot days, try to restrict it best you can or take extra precautionary measures.


  2. Check Your Prescriptions

    Some medications such as antibiotics can cause dangerous photosensitivity, so make sure you read up on all your medications before venturing out in the summer sun!


  3. Slather Year-Round

    Even though we don’t think about the sun as a threat during colder months, it is still shining down on you all year round. It is best to wear sunscreen year-round to really protect the skin (perhaps a lower SPF in winter months). The sun is even a problem on overcast summer days – people think they can get away without taking precautions when the sun is hiding, but those days can be the worst for summer sunburns.


  4. Cover Up

    If you are spending a lot of time in the sun (especially if you’re not used to prolonged exposure), try to spend some of your time in long sleeves to give your skin a break from the sun’s powerful rays.


  5. Avoid Fake n’ Bake

    Unless you have a medical condition such as severe psoriasis that calls for UV therapy during shady parts of the year, just about the worst thing you can do for your skin is to spend time in tanning beds. They have been not only correlated with, but directly linked to skin cancer. People often use them as prep for warm-weather trips, but in actuality routinely using them can increase your risk of melanoma (by 75% if you start tanning before 30).


  6. Go Heavy Duty When Necessary

    If you are going somewhere or engaging in an activity that will prolong your exposure to the sun (especially during peak hours), use a broad spectrum, high SPF sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection. Remember, you’ll have to reapply every couple hours or after swimming.


  7. Protect Your Extremities, Lips and Eyes Too

    Protection from the sun isn’t exclusive to only some parts of the body. People often forget to sunblock hands and feet (garnering strangely shaped sandal burns). People also often forget lips and eyes – so be sure to rock those shades and some SPF lip balm.


  8. Make Sure Your block Is Full of Goodies!

    Try to use oil-free sunscreens with added antioxidants like green tea to give a little added protection. The less unpronounceable ingredients, the better. There is no guarantee that antioxidants will help your skin, but there has been research linking antioxidants to cancer prevention. Vitamin C has shown promise in protecting the skin against sunburn. It is important to make sure your sunblock is broad spectrum as well so you are protected from all types of harmful rays. The Mayo Clinic has an excellent sunblock guide.


  9. Have A Nightly Skincare Regimen

    No matter how careful you are, the sun is still hard on your skin, so engaging in a nightly moisturizing ritual is a must if you wish to avoid too many wrinkles, sun spots or other similar sun-caused skin issues (up to 90% of wrinkles are caused by lifelong sun exposure!)

  10. Monitor Your Skin

    One of the single best things you can do to protect yourself from skin cancer is to do regular self examinations of your skin. If you see any spots or moles that have changed since the last check, book an appointment and have your doctor take a closer look.

For more summer skincare tips, or questions about skin cancer sign up to DocChat today for a video consultation with one of our highly qualified DocChat physician. Thanks for visiting!