skin cancer

Reduce Your Risk of Developing Skin Cancer

Achieving that once enviable, sun-kissed glow of summer not only speeds up the development of skin discolorations and wrinkles, it also dramatically increases your chance of skin cancer. Today, we know that there is a clear link between sun exposure and skin cancer. Yet, many are surprised to learn their risk. More than 4 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the United States each year. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. (source: Skin Cancer Foundation)

Most of us are exposed to substantial amounts of the sun’s rays throughout our lifetime. They are present during daylight hours, even when it’s cloudy. UVA and UVB rays play a key role in skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer. Exposure to them causes cumulative damage over time. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager can even increase your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.

Make Sunscreen a Daily Habit

The good news is that you can greatly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, as well as slow down skin aging, by using a few proven preventive strategies. This starts with applying a sunscreen daily with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 with a broad spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Anything above SPF 30 has little incremental benefit, and below 30 is not effective enough. If applied correctly, this will block up to 97 percent of damaging rays. Reapplication is important, particularly if you are in the water or sweating.

There are two different sunscreen types on the market – chemical and physical blockers. Chemical blockers work by absorbing the sun’s rays, and physical blockers deflect the rays. Chemical sunscreens typically offer more coverage but take about 20 minutes after application to be effective. Some individuals can experience irritation from the active ingredients in sunscreens with chemical blockers. Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They work immediately after application. Products containing zinc oxide are typically better for those with sensitive skin and offer protection against the entire spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. There are sunscreens on the market that contain both chemical and physical blockers.

Many women use makeup that contains sunscreen. While this can offer some level of protection, it typically is not sufficient. The safest bet is to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen under makeup. Don’t forget to use a lip balm or lipstick that also has SPF.

Other Skin Protection Strategies

While making sunscreen application a regular part of your daily routine is an important part of reducing your chance of developing skin cancer, it’s not the only way to protect your skin.

“No sunscreen is going to block 100 percent of the sun’s rays,” says Dr. Victoria Sharon, Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermato-Oncology at Northwell Health. “You need a multi-faceted approach that also includes wearing protective clothing and sunglasses and avoiding sun exposure during peak sunlight hours between 10am and 3pm.”

There are also new options when it comes to UV-protective products. A growing number of retailers are selling shirts, hats, pants, swimsuits and other clothing items that are made from fabric infused with chemicals that absorb UV rays. You can also create your own protective clothes by using one of the laundry detergents or laundry additives now available that distribute UV protection chemicals onto fabrics during the wash cycle.

Watch for Skin Cancer Symptoms

Most skin cancers are highly treatable when caught at an early stage. This is why it’s also important to watch for common signs of skin cancer. This means remembering the ABCDEs:

  • “A” for asymmetrical. Is a mole or spot irregular with two parts that look different?
  • “B” for border. Is the border irregular or uneven?
  • “C” for color. Is the color inconsistent?
  • “D” for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a small pencil eraser?
  • “E” for evolving. Has the mole or sot changed over a period of weeks or months?

If you have noticed a change, such as a new mole, a sore that doesn’t heal or any of the ABCDEs, get it checked out by your doctor. Learn more about the ABDEs of melanoma.

Want to learn more about preventing skin cancer? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

sleep better

Strategies to Avoid the Summer Sleep Problems

Struggling with summer sleep problems? You have plenty of company! Most of us have heard of the “summer slide,” when students tend to lose math and reading skills over the summer vacation. However, academic learning isn’t the only thing that tends to slide during the warm weather months. There is also often a summer sleep slide that not only impacts children, but also plenty of adults.

Maintain a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Summer vacations and the freedom from the weekday school routine can lead to later bedtimes and disrupted sleep schedules for everyone in the family. This can be a very real problem that over time results in sleep deprivation. It’s important to balance the freedom of summer break with a family’s sleep needs.

Preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night, and school age kids require 10.5 to 12 hours. Most adults need seven to nine hours. Ideally, keep bedtimes consistent over the summer to keep internal clocks in check.

“It’s important to maintain the same going-to-bed and wake-up times,” says Dr. Preethi Rajan of Northwell Health’s Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. “Going to bed late and sleeping in can affect the natural rhythm of our sleep. Chilldren get hyperactive and lose their ability to pay attention when their regular schedule is disrupted. Adults can feel groggy and tired through the day.”

Darken Your Bedroom

After a long, dark winter, summertime sunshine is a welcome change, but it’s not so great when it impacts sleep. Living in a region where it’s still light outside during the evening hours can make it more difficult to fall asleep. To avoid a sleep problem, keep your bedroom dark at night with light-blocking curtains or blinds, as well as maintain consistency in your sleep routine. If you find it difficult to fall asleep, don’t be tempted to grab for an electronic device to lull yourself into dreamland. Digital technology impacts cognitive stimulation and can rev up the brain, which is the opposite of what should be happening before sleep. The bedroom should be an electronic-free zone, and ideally, there should be 15 to 30 minutes of technology-free time before heading to bed.

Keep It Cool

With summer sun comes higher temperatures. A bedroom that is too warm can keep you awake at night. Falling asleep and staying asleep requires the body to lower its internal temperature. This can be more difficult if your bedroom’s temperature is not optimal. A few suggestions to keep it cool include:

  • Keep windows tightly closed if the temperature outside is hotter than indoors
  • Use a fan to circulate cool air
  • Wear light bed clothing
  • Take a cool shower or bath before getting into bed
  • Don’t exercise within several hours of your regular bedtime

Could It Be a Sleep Disorder?

Although there are temporary sleep problems that are more likely to occur during the summer, they may also indicate a larger sleep disorder. If you frequently experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your physician.

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Strong urge to take naps during the day
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression

Want to learn more about overcoming sleep problems? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Summer Safety Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe

With warmer temperatures and children out of school, summer is the time to enjoy some rest and relaxation. It’s also when certain types of injuries and illnesses are more likely to occur. This is why it’s important to put into play some basic summer safety tips. From barbecues and swim parties to trampolines and fireworks, summer is loaded with fun, as well as opportunities to step up your safety game.

“Safety definitely begins at home,” says Ro Ennis, Assistant Vice President, Community Health and Education at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “By being aware of the potential risks and using some common-sense strategies, you can avoid many of the most common summertime injuries and illnesses.”

Water Safety

Swimming is a favorite summer activity for both children and adults. On average, nearly 5,000 individuals each year in the United States receive emergency care for injuries suffered in swimming pools (source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission). Water safety should be a top priority. This includes never leaving young children unattended near water, always swimming with a buddy and ensuring that everyone in the family learns to swim well.

Barbecue Safety

With outdoor living spaces becoming increasingly popular, more of us are investing in grills and even full outdoor kitchens. Gas and charcoal grills are ideal for creating delicious summertime meals at home, but they also increase the risk of thermal burns and home fires. For safe grilling, the grill should never be left unattended and should be placed well away from structures, including railings, fences and eaves. Children and pets should be kept at least three feet away from the grill area. Gas grill lids should always be open before lighting.

Heat and Sun Safety

Summer is all about enjoying the warm temperatures. However, on hot sunny days, it’s easy to get too much of a good thing. Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburns, as well as heat-related illness. To minimize any risk, practice proper sun protection. This includes using a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, staying in the shade during midday hours and avoiding small spaces, such as inside of a car, where hot temperatures can build up quickly and cause hyperthermia.

Food Safety

Food poisoning is more common during the summer months because food-borne bacteria grow quicker in hot weather. Extra care should be taken with food prepared and eaten outdoors. Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs to keep foods, such as meat, summer salads and dairy products, at a safe temperature. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like bread, condiments and vegetables. Don’t let perishable food sit out for more than one hour in hot weather (above 90 degrees).

Insect Safety

Warm temperatures are also appealing to insects which can transmit illnesses, including West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, and encephalitis. To prevent insect bites and protect against illness, stay away from stagnant water and heavily wooded areas that can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and ticks. Avoid perfumes and scented soaps that can attract some insects and use an insect repellent containing DEET which can help keep insects away.

Want to learn more about summer safety? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.