Soak Up The Sun Now, Pay Later

By: Christine Kennedy
By: Christine Kennedy

It is July and and here in Eastern Carolina we're pretty fortunate to be surrounded by so much water. So it's obvious that people are going to be out in the elements around this time of year. Many of you probably grab the sunscreen before heading out and although you may not know it now that sunscreen could save your skin and your life.

Teresa Smith was just 21 years old when she was diagnosed with her first skin cancer.

Smith said, "My first one was a fever blister that came up on my lip and it kept growing and after about a week my lip went numb."

Growing up on Topsail Beach, she says she didn't use sunscreen.

Smith said, "We had baby oil. Just cake on the baby oil and I tanned. I always had a good tan."

Today, Smith says she still suffers from her sun exposure. She's had 24 malignant melanomas, 2 squamous cells, 5 skin grafts and numerous basal cell carcinomas.

Smith now works with Dr. Eric Howell, a Dermatologist at Eastern Dermatology and Pathology in Greenville. He makes a living helping those who've damaged their skin in the sun. A tan according to Dr. Howell is nothing more than showing you've damaged your skin. But he says certain people are more pre-disposed to skin cancer. Those include people who burn easily and people who have a difficult time getting a tan.

He says using sunscreen is key to not only prevent sunburn, but skin cancer as well. But Dr. Howell says people need to be aware of certain things when buying the right sunscreen.

Sunscreen Tips
- Apply "Broad Spectrum" UVA/UVB
- SPF 30
- Apply 20 min before going outside
- Re-apply every 1 to 2 hours
- Use Titanium Dioxide/ Zinc Oxide on sensitive skin
- Avoid Sun from Noon to 4 PM

Dr. Howell says keep an eye on rough patches on your skin as well as moles that change shape or are bigger than a pencil eraser.

Dr. Howell says you should visit the dermatologist in your mid to late 20's if you've had a lot of bad burns. If not, he says most people can hold off on making an appointment until their 30's.

Most melanoma cancers develop in a person's 40's, 50's and above, while non-melanoma skin cancers develop in people ages 50 and above.

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