Protect Your Skin Before Heading Outdoors

By Marianne Martinez, CBS 11 News

PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texans will be enjoying the long Memorial Day weekend at cook-outs, pool parties and trips to the lake. But before going out, don’t forget to protect your skin. The sunshine will be pouring down, and just one bad sunburn can greatly increase your risk of getting melanoma.

Sarah Drury takes good care of her skin. She gets her moles checked every year and she always applies plenty of sunscreen. “My grandfather died of melanoma,” Drury said. “So, we’re extra careful, all the members of our family.”

But Drury was not always so careful. As a child, she rarely protected her skin when going outside, and would often get painful sunburns. “We spent a lot of time at the lake, hanging out at the beaches and getting all into the sun,” she said. “As a kid, [the sunburns] would get pretty bad. I’d be head-to-toe red, on my ears, and sometimes, if they’re really bad, you’d get blisters.”

Studies show that even one bad sunburn can lead to permanent damage. “One blistering sunburn as a child will actually double your lifetime risk for melanoma,” explained Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano dermatologist Dr. Mark Thieberg.

Most people do not realize that a single burn can have a long-term impact, Thieberg said just before the holiday weekend. “They think about the fact that it’s going to hurt and not look good. They’re not thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to get melanoma in 20 years.’”

Thieberg suggests that parents educate their kids about the benefits of skin care, to help develop good habits early on in life. And for those with fair skin, a lot of sun exposure or a family history of skin cancer – get checked out by a doctor. Also, pay special attention to moles, making sure that they are not oddly-shaped, oddly-colored or changing.

“When you catch melanoma early, 90 percent can be cured,” Thieberg said.

Meanwhile, Drury will spend this weekend – and most of the summer – avoiding the sun if she can, knowing that it will all pay off in the future. “I use the highest SPF and I don’t tan,” she said. “I hang out under the umbrella.”

And remember, sunscreen only lasts a couple of hours after application. It is important to re-apply constantly, especially if you are going to be spending an extended period of time outdoors.

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