Megan is a busy lady, so I appreciated her taking time to stop in and chat today. As a Physicians Assistant in Dermatology for the last 18 years, she definitely knows her stuff!

Last week we were talking about how important it is to protect yourself from the sun. We all get caught up in the fun we're having during the summer and sometimes find ourselves suffering from a sunburn because we didn't plan accordingly.

I asked Megan for some tips that we could all benefit from and her first advice had to do with sunscreen.

Kids 6 months and older should wear it outdoors, which seems like a no-brainer, but when you go to the store to find one it can be rather overwhelming. Which one do you pick?

Megan said the rule for dermatologists is an SPF of 30 or greater. An SPF is the sun protection factor. All sunscreens on the shelf should have a number, whether it's a 4, an 8, a 15 or a 30. But what does the number mean?

The number represents the time it will take for your skin to burn if you didn't have anything applied, so if you were wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, it takes 15 times longer for your skin to burn if you're in the sun with that product on versus wearing no protection.

So just wear a sunscreen with the highest number you can find, right?

Megan says bigger is generally better, but a 50 SPF and a 100 SPF sunscreen don't really have much difference. She says sometimes people get so caught up in the number that they get overwhelmed by it. It's more important to simply wear something... and to be sure you're putting on enough of it. Most importantly she says, is to make sure you're also stopping to re-apply throughout the day!

The two biggest errors people make when wearing sunscreen are not putting on enough and not stopping to reapply. They recommend putting more on every time you get out of the water or about every two hours.

Yeah, it can be a pain to pull your kids out of the water every 90 minutes or so, but if you don't you simply won't stay protected.

Sure you don't want to be the nerd wearing too much sunscreen, but you can't be too safe.

Other tips Megan suggested were wearing hats (especially wide-brimmed hats to protect the ears) and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

You can also wear sun-clothing, like rash guard tops that are designed to protect you from the sun.

Megan said she's not hating on the sun. The sun is good for you, your soul and your psyche but like everything else... take it in moderation.

Our conversation turned to people who find spots on their body that don't look normal.

Megan said anyone who has a family with a history of melanoma is recommended to have screenings each year, because the chance of melanoma increases by about 50% in people who have a family history.

If you have a family history of other types of non-melanoma skin cancers they still recommend annual screenings.

There are primarily 3 types of skin cancers. Melanoma is the scary one that Megan says everyone knows about, with dark spots that are cancerous and can be life-threatening. There are other types of skin cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, that are considered non-melanoma skin cancers that are far more common - especially in Caucasian individuals.

The more common types usually show up like a non-healing spot. A pink or red spot, a scaly spot or a spot that just doesn't seem to heal. It could bleed occasionally or just seem to stay crusty and quite sensitive.

If you have a spot that doesn't seem to heal within four weeks, you should definitely have it checked.

As for melanoma, dermatologists use an A-B-C-D-E criteria.

"A" stands for asymmetry, so if you cut a mole in half and it doesn't match on both sides, something might be up.

"B" stands for border irregularity, so a spot with jagged edges might be suspicious.

"C" stands for color variations, so shades of red and brown, purple or funny looking colors on a spot.

You get the picture. If it seems off, it might be, so it's probably best to get it checked out.

Hopefully this helps out as a good reminder. According to a skin cancer website, the number of new invasive melanoma cases diagnosed annually increased by 44 percent in the past decade.

Be smart in the sun and stay safe!

If you'd like to get ahold of Megan's office with the Grand River Medical Group, you can find all their info at this LINK.

~Chris Farber



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