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If You Bare It, Don't Let It Burn
By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
Did you moisturize today?
Or slather on sunscreen?
If not, you should every day, on every square inch of skin.
The skin is our largest organ and fairly easy to ignore right up until you slice it on a sheet of paper, scrape off a layer as you brush against a rough rock, or end up with a blistering burn after a day in the sun.
The skin covers the entire human body and protects us against heat, light, injury and infection.
It also regulates body temperature, stores water and fat, prevents water loss and keeps out bacteria.
Doesn't it deserve a little attention?
Dr. Barbara Tylka admits that it's nearly impossible to shun the sun if you live in Eastern Oregon.
"You can't avoid it living here unless you stay inside all the time," she said.
The key is to protect your skin by avoiding behaviors that cause damage.
"Maintaining skin is all about keeping it out of the sun and tanning booths. A tan is injury to the skin," Tylka said.
As a surgeon at St. Elizabeth Health Services, she sees the negative effects of the sun's rays.
"My big thing is preventing skin cancer," she said.
Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer, reports the American Cancer Society and occur in two forms: melanomas and nonmelanomas.
Nonmelanomas are the most common kind of skin cancer, and rarely spread to other areas of the body.
Melanoma is the less common but more serious skin cancer, accounting for 4 percent of skin cancer cases and causing 79 percent of skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. It is also the most common type of cancer among people age 25 to 29.
While melanoma is usually curable in its early stages, it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 55,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year, and nearly 8,000 people will die of the disease.
To prevent skin cancer, Tylka suggests using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and wearing protective clothing.
And don't skimp on the sunscreen.
"Put it on thick," Tylka said. "Most people put on a little dab and spread it around."
Pay attention to your ears, too both the tops and around the inside.
"I take skin cancers out of those areas because people don't really think about them," Tylka said.
She also said it's smart to apply sunscreen everywhere, even on skin that's shielded by clothing.
"Most materials only have an SPF of seven to 10," she said.
In addition to taking these precautions, Tylka said to keep an eye out for any abnormalities.
The American Cancer Society suggests the ABCD rule to tell a normal mole from melanoma:
o Asymmetry one half of the mole doesn't match the other half
o Border irregularity edges are ragged or notched
o Color the mole varies in color of shades of tan, brown or black
o Diameter the mole is wider than a quarter-inch.
"Just notice if you're developing new moles or if this one looks the same as the others," Tylka said. "Usually what you're looking for is something different."
Make sure to moisturize
In addition to sunscreen, one of the most important aspects of skin care is to optimize the skin barrier function, which keeps moisture in and protects against infections and disease, said Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, a dermatologist in Fruitland, Idaho.
"We don't have the optimum barrier function not because of the dry climate but our bathing habits," he said.
The key to improving the skin barrier is to keep baths and showers short and cleanse with tepid water rather than hot, he said.
Moisturizing soaps are good as long as they're fragrance-free, not simply unscented.
"Fragrance is the number one allergen and irritant," Thornfeldt said.
After cleansing, pat your skin dry and apply a moisturizer preferably a thick cream to close that skin barrier, he said.
"In our high-desert region you want to use creams, not lotions," he said.
Thornfeldt suggests that anyone over age 22 should slather on the moisturizer at least every other day and those over 55 need to make it part of their daily routine.
"Everybody over age 22 should be moisturizing. The natural oil production starts to fall after age 22," he said.
He also reminds everyone to be diligent about sunscreen.
"It needs to be done every single day whether you're going outside or not. Daily in the morning, year round," he said.