Shunning the Sun Makes Cancer Sense

Cancer survivors need extra sun protection

(RxWiki News) Staying out of the sun during particular hours and wearing a full-spectrum sun screen are common sense ways to protect yourself from the sun. For cancer patients, these precautions are even more important.

Cancer treatments - including chemotherapy and radiation - decrease the skin's natural protective abilities, putting cancer survivors at greater risk from sun damage. That's why practicing sun safety is essential for both patients and survivors.

"As a survivor, protect yourself from the sun."

According to Elizabeth Kvale, M.D., director of outpatient supportive care and survivorship in the Department of Medicine at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and associate scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, it's particularly important for survivors to follow the basics - wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen and protective clothing.

Dr. Kvale says skin that's been exposed to radiation treatment needs to be completely protected from the sun's rays. Likewise, patients who are undergoing chemotherapy are also more sun sensitive.

Here are her sun safety tips for cancer patients and survivors:

  • Cover surgical scars because they will darken with sun exposure
  • If you've lost your hair, cover your scalp in addition to using sunscreen
  • Completely cover any skin that has received radiation therapy
  • Skin cancer patients should cover treated areas with dark, tightly knitted fabrics, according to American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO)

Dr. Kvale adds that pediatric cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers must be extremely vigilant about sun safety because serious skin cancers can develop as a long-term consequence of sunburn.

This article was published in the UAB News.

Review Date: 
August 2, 2011