In the high altitudes and sunny skies of bend are endless opportunities for fun: hiking, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, bouldering, golfing, picnicking, and tons of other things. Unfortunately, all of this time spent outdoors is inviting another unwelcome guest to come to the party — skin cancer.

Now that winter is over and we’re all outside all the time, maybe it’s time for a refresher on skin cancer. And, remember, if you see a spot that changes color or shape, it’s time to come see us at Deschutes and let us take look at it.

UVA vs. UVB or both?

Sunscreens can be confusing. But it’s really not that complicated. You need a sunscreen labeled “broad based” or for “both UVA and UVB rays.” Initially, the thinking was that only UVB rays were dangerous, as those are the rays that affect the epidermis. UVB rays cause sunburns. But now we know that UVA rays are doing their damage from below. They penetrate into the dermis, the skin’s second layer, causing skin aging and the beginnings of melanoma and other skin cancers. So, while UVA rays don’t make you peel, they could be doing even worse things in the dermis.

How much SPF is needed?

SPF is an area of confusion. People think that the more SPF the better, and they pay through the nose for it. But the reality is that over an SPF of 30, the difference is only a couple percent in sun blocking ability. Those SPFs that claim 50 and higher are probably just setting you up to pay more.

If you get skin cancer you die.

Although it is the most common cancer worldwide, skin cancer isn’t the biggest killer. Most skin cancers, if detected early enough, are all treatable with surgery. That’s why yearly visits to Deschutes are necessary, so we can spot the cancers and pre-cancerous spots before they progress.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer

This is true. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. More than 8,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it every day! Probably double that or more are undiagnosed.

Sunscreen prevents skin cancer

Nope. Sunscreen helps block the rays than lead to skin cancer, but just because you have on sunscreen doesn’t mean you can spend every waking minute in the sun without repercussions. Sun damage is cumulative.

If you have lots of moles, you have a higher risk of melanoma

Although moles don’t usually turn into skin cancer, there is a correlation between moles and developing melanoma. People with moles, especially large ones, have a higher risk of melanoma. The rough number is 50 — if you have more than 50 moles on your skin, your risk of skin cancer is higher.

So, you don’t need to stay out of the great outdoors in Oregon, but you do need to pay attention to your skin. Yearly skin checkups with the pros at Deschutes need to be on your to-do list. Call us at [primary_phone] to make an appointment.