Safeguard Your Skin

Article Date: Jul 7, 2010

Ellie Kalcik loves the water, but she doesn’t even think about getting in it until she first lathers up with sunscreen. At five years old, she understands its importance – as well as what SPF (Sun Protection Factor) she needs to stay safe.

“Ummm … 50 makes you not be sunburned,” explains Ellie.

Nearly half of all Americans will develop skin cancer at least once in their lifetime. Limiting sun exposure is your best bet for avoiding it.

“Non-melanoma cancer is the most common of all skin cancer,” says Alegent Health Clinic Dermatologist Dr. James Shehan. “It’s the most common of all human cancer.”

And it’s on the rise – with one million new cases reported just last year. Thankfully, a good sunscreen can cut your risk. Dr. Shehan recommends an SPF of 30 or higher that covers both UVA and UVB light. But if you don’t follow the directions, you may lose the protection.

“Most of us are using it [sunscreen] incorrectly,” says Shehan. “I counsel my patients to put it on 20 minutes before going out, and then reapply just as you are going out. Every hour or two reapply – especially if you are in the water or sweating. Those chemicals don’t last long.”

Sunscreen is only part of the equation. Dr. Shehan also recommends:

  • stay away from tanning beds
  • avoid the sun during peak hours (10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)
  • consider sun protective clothing

Luke Siedlik is a proponent of sun protective clothing, as well as sunscreen. “The shirt helps, too,” she explains. “It’s cheap and prevents more sunburns.”

Families also want to remember to stay on top of their regular check-ups and to see their doctor if anything starts to look suspicious.

“Ultimately, if something is changing or if it looks irregular and is burning, itching or bleeding, it’s time to get it checked out,” says Dr. Shehan.

To learn more about skin cancer and how to prevent it, to make an appointment with Dr. Shehan or to find another physician who is right for you, call 1-800-ALEGENT or log on to

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