By The Skin Cancer Foundation
The spread of COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus) has sparked concern worldwide and prompted many leaders to take decisive action to contain the virus. Several states have mandated citizens to stay home from work, socially distance and remain indoors, meaning people have found their time outside has been drastically reduced.
Although we may not be exposed to direct sunlight as often, The Skin Cancer Foundation advises everyone to remain vigilant in regard to protecting your skin and checking your body for suspicious lesions.
While spending most of your time indoors, it’s instinctive to gravitate toward places in your home that receive natural light, like windows and skylights. It’s important to exercise caution while enjoying this little slice of the outdoor world. However, sunlight streaming through glass can still harm your skin. Two types of UV light are proven to contribute to the risk for skin cancer: ultraviolet A (UVA), which has a longer wavelength, and ultraviolet B (UVB), which has a shorter wavelength. UVA and UVB rays can cause sunburns and tanning, but UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, which can contribute to signs of premature aging, like dark spots and wrinkles. They’re also better at finding you.
“UVA rays can penetrate window glass, meaning you can still be at risk of exposure while inside,” says Deborah S. Sarnoff, M.D., president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Even when home, it’s important to be cognizant of UV radiation and apply sunscreen to the face and exposed areas of the body.”
For times like this, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher for daily use, especially if you’re going to be working right by a window. Try placing your sunscreen beside your toothbrush so you have easy access while getting ready in the morning, as it might be difficult to remember to apply when you know you won’t be venturing outside.
For indoor workers who receive a significant amount of incidental sun exposure, it’s important to reapply sunscreen, especially before going outside for breaks or errands. You can further protect your skin by pulling down the window shade during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), installing UV-protective window film and covering up with clothing.
While preventing skin damage that can lead to skin cancer is imperative, now is also a good time to revisit skin cancer warning signs and perform at-home skin exams. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you examine your skin head-to-toe every month, and all you need is a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, two chairs or stools, a blow-dryer, paper and a pencil. Look for anything new, changing or unusual on your skin, and reach out to a dermatologist if you see something concerning. You can find more information about skin cancer warning signs and how to perform a self-exam at www.TheBigSee.org.
If your dermatologist is no longer seeing patients in the office or is extra busy due to COVID-19, see if your doctor offers any teledermatology options. Teledermatology is a rapidly developing subspecialty using the latest technology to allow patients better access to high-quality dermatologic care without traveling to the clinic. If you have a medical emergency, you should still try to get in to see a dermatologist as soon as possible. But for non-emergencies, here’s how you can use teledermatology to help when it comes to skin cancer:
•Take photos on your phone of anything new, changing or unusual on your skin and monitor it over time. There are even apps that will send you a monthly reminder to check on the spot to see if it has evolved.
•Share the photos with your dermatologist who can look them over virtually and provide advice over the phone. They will determine if you need to come into the office or not.
If you’ve recently been treated for skin cancer, your dermatologist can provide follow-up care over the phone or via video sessions.
The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. It’s mission is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. Since its inception in 1979, the foundation has recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use. For more information, visit SkinCancer.org.