A Ray of Truth: Protecting Skin from Melanoma in Cold Climates

Even in winter and cold climates, you need to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays which can lead to cancer.
BY KATIE KOSKO @Katie_Kosko
PUBLISHED: DECEMBER 09, 2016
CELINA McHUGH , PATIENT - PHOTO BY MARIA DeFORREST
CELINA McHUGH , PATIENT - PHOTO BY MARIA DeFORREST
Growing up along the Delaware Bay, Celina McHugh spent a lot of her time outdoors. Never did she think that, at 37 years old, she would be diagnosed with stage 1 melanoma. But that became her new reality when her doctor found a lesion on her shin. McHugh underwent surgery — a wide resection — and was followed every six months for about eight years with skin exams, chest X-rays and labs.

“When I was a kid, there was no sunscreen. It was basically suntan lotion,” says McHugh. While sunscreen did exist in America in the 1970s, there was little public awareness about its importance. “When I was a teenager, they came out with the Hawaiian Tropic oil, which is what I used,” she continues. “I grew up in Lewes (Delaware). I went to the beach a lot. I can’t tell you how many blistering sunburns I had. I mean, it takes one blistering sunburn (in childhood or adolescence) to increase your chances of melanoma by 50 percent — and I had several.”

Sunscreen is now something she wears every single day, 12 months of the year. It’s a strategy every person should add to their routine, she says, and dermatologists agree.

“I think there is a bit of a myth that sunscreen is only important when we go to the beach or take a tropical vacation in the winter,” says Jason Givan, M.D., a spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Really, you should be thinking about sunscreen on a daily basis.”

HOW IT HAPPENS

The sun gives off ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays all of the time. UVA is a longer-wave ray of light than UVB. It can be harmful because, unlike UVB, people often don’t realize they are being exposed to it. For instance, it can pass through clouds, rain and even windows of homes and cars. People won’t see a burn or tan with UVA, like they do from UVB, which is more prominent in the summer months.



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