Column: Feet need sunscreen, too

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Commentary by Dr. David Sullivan

July is UV Safety Awareness Month, a great time to discuss how you can protect your feet from the sun and find out the best ways to check yourself.

Often, consistent sunscreen users neglect the feet, yet bare feet are exposed to the sun’s rays, too. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer, especially deadly melanoma which can spread through blood vessels and the lymphatic system. Symptoms can be as subtle as an abnormal-looking mole or freckle found anywhere on the foot, and often go unnoticed without routine foot exams.

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and the American Academy of Dermatology offer these tips to keep your feet safe this summer:

  • Select a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and broad-spectrum coverage that protects from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply at least 15 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Lather up with sunscreen from head to toe – literally – when at the pool or beach. Make sure to apply to both the top and bottom of your feet. Once is not enough! Reapply at least every two hours and immediately if you are sweating or swimming.
  • Avoid sun exposure when it’s strongest, generally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Be aware that water, sand and even snow reflect and intensify UV rays.
  • Check your feet and toes regularly for symptoms such as an abnormal-looking mole or freckle anywhere on the foot – even under toenails and on your soles. Look for moles or freckles that change in size or shape. If you notice anything suspicious, promptly schedule an appointment with your podiatrist to have the mark examined.
  • Schedule routine exams with your podiatrist so he or she can keep track of suspicious, changing marks.

Early detection and treatment of skin cancer is key and could help save your life.


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