Younger, Healthier Skin Takes Planning – Dr. Mary Finnegan

Omaha World Herald
Published June 13, 2011
by Judy Horan

Teenagers with skin cancer?  It’s happening more often, according to Omaha dermatologist Dr. Joel Schlessinger.

“Fifty percent or more of skin exposure is gained during the young hears,” he said.  “They think because they’re young, it’s not important to wear sunscreen and protective clothing.”

Teens who spent time in the sun and didn’t get skin cancer might think they’re safe as adults.  But it can take about 20 years for skin cancers to come to the surface, he said.  Today’s skin cancer may have begun on a beach several decades ago.

It’s never too late to begin protecting our skin, said dermatologist Dr. Mary Finnegan of Omaha, who cautions against the use of tanning beds.

“Sunless tanning agents, although considered safe, only provide an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 3 to 4,” she said.

Finnegan said there’s a misconception that melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, occurs only on sun-exposed areas.

“It can occur anywhere, even the bottom of the foot and under the nails.  In fact, the No. 1 location for melanoma is the back of the calf.”
Sun also can be aging.

“When a person starts developing lines and sunspots, they should start a retinoid drug, whether over the counter or a prescription brand such as Retin-A or Renova,” said Finnegan, who is president of the Nebraska Dermatology Society.  “The products prevent pre-cancer, help clear fine lines and sun spots and improve the texture of the skin.”

“As we age, we lose the ability to keep moisture in the skin,” Schlessinger said.  “Men and women should keep sunscreen and moisturizers on to hydrate.”

Adults can try exfoliation to reverse sun damage.  More aggressive steps, such as laser treatments and peels, also can help.

Sunscreen secrets

Until they are age 6 months, babies should be protected with products containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and with protective clothing that does not overheat them, Finnegan said.

After age 6 months, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.  She said sunscreen products protect against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B light.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens should contain at least one of the following: Helioplex, avobenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or Mexory.  Those sensitive to sunscreens should look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.  Use a moisturizer every day that contains sunscreen, Finnegan said.

Areas often overlooked are the higher-risk places for the spread of cancer: ear rims, nose, lips, tops of hands and tops of feet.
“Most people under-apply sunscreen with only 27 percent of the amount they need, so slather it on liberally,” Finnegan said.  “Apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes prior to outdoor exposure and reapply every 90 minutes.”

Discard the sunscreen after one season.

Clothing designed to protect

Do not depend on sunscreen alone.  Avoid direct sunlight when possible and wear protective clothing such as hats and long-sleeve shirts.

Hats should have a wide brim (6 inches), Finnegan said.  New in sun protection: The laundry aid Rit Sun Guard washes UV protection into clothing and boosts the clothing’s protection level.

A dietary supplement called Heliocare helps protect skin from the sun, Schlessinger said.

He recommends avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Taking one or two aspirin will reduce the chances of sunburn by 50 percent, he said.

If you do get burned, keep aloe vera handy.

“It is the single most helpful post-sunburn treatment there is,” Schlessinger said.



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