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Sun Safety & Your Skin

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May 20, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Taylor: Today we're talking about sun safety and your skin. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. David Buys, Mississippi State University Extension Health Specialist, also with Ann Sansing, Community Health Coordinator.

David, Mississippi is known for its hot summers. A lot of folks seek relief in the pool or take a trip to the beach. Some enjoy sitting out at baseball games, and others head to the yard for a little horticulture therapy. Among all of those activities, people will be exposed to the sun. Is the sun really bad for us?

David Buys: The short answer is yes. Too much sun exposure can cause a lot of damage to your skin, and ultimately lead to cancer both at the skin and in other parts of your body if the skin cancer is not caught early enough.

Amy Taylor: Tell me more about that.

David Buys: First, cancer is the term we give to a condition in the body when cells start growing out of control. So skin cancer occurs when the cells in the skin start to grow at abnormal rates. Skin cancers include squamous and basal cell carcinomas and melanomas, and those account for at least half of all cancers among people in the United States. Those three names refer to the place in the skin or on the skin where the cancer is located. The squamous and basal cells are the two outermost layers, and the melanocyte is where melanomas occur. Melanomas are less frequent, but they are certainly far more severe than the other two forms of skin cancer. And all forms of skin cancer can affect people from any race, however, we do know that lighter skin tones put people at greater risk.

Amy Taylor: What is it about the sun that actually hurts us and leads to the cancer?

David Buys: The sun contains ultraviolet rays, or UV rays for short, which actually change the DNA in our skin when it makes contact, and can cause the cells to begin to replicate. More specifically, there are two types of UV rays. One is UVA, and the other is UVB. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays, and those UVA rays tend to cause tanning and lead to sustained damage in the skin, which change that DNA that I talked about earlier and ultimately cause the development of skin cancer. UVB rays, on the other hand, is the main cause of skin reddening and sunburn, that initial reaction we have to being in the sun, and those tend to damage the skin's more superficial epidermal layers.

Amy Taylor: Wow, that sounds really complicated. What's the bottom line for Mississippians like me, who enjoy being outdoors in the summer?

David Buys: Here on Farm and Family, I've quoted Benjamin Franklin before, and I'll quote him again. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The bottom line is that you should reduce your risk of skin cancer by always wearing sunscreen. Look for FDA approved, 30 SPF broad spectrum; that broad spectrum means that it covers both those UVA rays, and those UVB rays. And when you're outside, reapply that sunscreen at least every two hours. Be sure, as well, that it is water-resistant. In addition to that, avoid tanning beds. Wear a hat. Keep newborn kids out of the sun. Examine your skin from head to toe every month. Take a look to see if there have been any changes, and if something new appears, watch for those changes, and when it grows or becomes discolored, you should seek medical help promptly.

I also recommend that patients remember to ask their health care provider to conduct a full body skin exam when they have their annual physical. Health care providers are busy, and sometimes this gets lost in the busyness of their discussing other medical needs, but skin health is very important as well.

I guess of all the things I've said, if you only hear a few words, it should be these: FDA approved, broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher, applied every two hours.

Amy Taylor: Okay, and Ann, you work with health coalitions around the state. Can you tell us about efforts going on in committees around Mississippi?

Ann Sansing:  Yes, Amy. I'm thrilled to be the connector linking the Mississippi Department of Health's Partnership for Comprehensive Cancer Control to counties throughout Mississippi through our Extension Service. As a part of our partnership, we have acquired several skin analyzers that allow people to see places on their face or other skin spots that might have had too much exposure to the sun or have otherwise dangerous growths.

Our Extension agents are trained and have access to those analyzers. They're available to come to events throughout the state to help educate Mississippians on how to protect themselves against skin damage and skin cancer. If you want more information about the Mississippi Partnership for Comprehensive Cancer Control, call them at 601-576-7781. And for more information on how to have an agent bring a skin analyzer to an event near you, you may contact your local Extension office.

Amy Taylor: All right, and do you have any concluding remarks?

David Buys: Yeah, Amy. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your health care provider. For other information about skin cancer, visit the skin cancer foundation's website at That's S-K-I-N C-A-N-C-E-R dot org.

Amy Taylor: Today we've been speaking with Dr. David Buys, the Extension Health Specialist, and Ann Sansing, Community Health Coordinator. I'm Amy Taylor, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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