12 May Skin Cancer and Protection During Coronavirus
If you are like a lot of Americans, COVID-19 has had you spending more time indoors and a lot less time commuting. Those two scenarios can lead to a false sense of safety when it comes to skin cancer and UV exposure, but at Spectrum Dermatology we urge you to stay diligent with your sunscreen regimen. Even if you’re practicing social distancing, telecommuting, and seeming to spend a lot more time indoors, The Skin Cancer Foundation urges everyone to continue at-home checks for signs of skin cancer.
One of the most common oversights when it comes to UV protection—during the coronavirus and otherwise—is to assume that if you’re indoors you’re inherently safe from UV rays. This isn’t necessarily true. In fact, it’s common for many people to gravitate towards places in the home that are flooded with sunlight. Whether it’s from a skylight, window, or sun porch, UV exposure is UV exposure. Windows provide no protection from the sun’s rays, which means that sitting by a window is equivalent to sitting outdoors.
Understanding Skin Cancer During COVID-19
There are two types of UV rays that are known to cause skin cancer. UVA, or ultraviolet A, has a longer wavelength than UVB (ultraviolet B). However, both can cause burns, tans, and of course skin cancer and skin damage. UVA rays tend to penetrate to a deeper level, which is why they’re particularly good at causing dark spots, wrinkles, and other signs of premature aging. According to the president of The Skin Cancer Foundation, Dr. Deborah Sarnoff, “UVA rays can penetrate window glass … even when home, it’s important to be cognizant of UV radiation and apply sunscreen to the face and exposed areas of the body.”
This is also true of transportation. Even if your car has tinted windows, that does little to protect you and your skin from UV rays. Many of us operate under the false idea that sun damage happens only when we are in direct exposure to the sun outside. In fact, the damage doesn’t even have to be recent. Studies have shown that a person’s history of severe sunburns plays a role in how likely they are to develop skin cancer, but there’s also a risk in collective sun damage over the years that might not necessarily results in burns or tans.
How to Protect Yourself While Indoors
Take this time of working from home and social distancing to adopt a new and more comprehensive approach to sun protection. How often you should apply sunscreen depends on how much of your home is lit by the sun. If you’ve set up a work from home station in a spare bedroom and situated a desk right by a window, you’ll want to protect your skin as if you’re working outdoors. This means using an SPF of at least 30 and which is listed as “broadband.” Sunscreen should be reapplied every 75 minutes, and adults should use about two tablespoons of sunscreen on average.
It’s also important to simply practice sun awareness. If you’re not purposefully soaking up those rays, avoid them when you can. Draw the curtains, move to a different spot, or wear long sleeves and pants for better protection. Remember that peak sun hours are between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and that’s when the UV rays are especially strong. You should avoid sun exposure during those hours and take advantage of newfound flexibility by running any essential errands early in the morning or in the evening when the sun isn’t shining.
Help with At-Home Skin Exams
It’s important to perform at-home skin checks on a monthly basis regardless of what is happening in the world. It’s best if you have someone you can trust “swap” checks with so that you can be certain hard to see places, like the back and scalp, are checked. Follow the ABCDEs of skin checks and if you do find something suspicious, try not to panic. Spectrum Dermatology is physically closed during recommended social distancing, but we are available to perform telemedicine appointments. For any of your pressing medical dermatological concerns, know that we are still here for you.
Prevention is just as important as getting a fast treatment when it comes to skin cancer. Keep in mind that when skin cancer is caught early, it’s very quick and easy to treat. Stock up on sunscreen while you’re self-isolating and contact Spectrum Dermatology at (480)-948-8400 if you do need a telemedicine appointment.