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Don’t Wai​​t for Summer to Protect Skin from Cancer-Causing Sun​

Over spring break, my daughter got badly sunburned on an overcast day. How can this be?

"Sunburns can indeed occur on cloudy or hazy days," says Michael Gifford, a board-certified dermatologist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. "The sun sends two types of ultraviolet rays (UV-A and UV-B) strong enough to travel almost 93 million miles to earth, and according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 40 percent of those rays reach us even on completely cloudy days.
"The health concern," Dr. Gifford says, "is that those sunrays can damage our skin in ways that lead to melanoma - a dangerous, sometimes deadly, form of skin cancer."
Skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in the United States. Affected women and men equally, it most often develops on sun-exposed areas - like the face, neck, lips, hands and shoulders - but can also occur under fingernails or soles of feet.
"Your daughter had a painful reminder of how harsh the sun can be, even when hidden by March clouds," Dr. Gifford says. "We need to protect our skin from harmful UV rays, because even moderate exposure can cause irreversible skin damage and speed the aging process."
Fortunately, if detected in the early stages, most skin cancers are treatable with positive patient outcomes.
"If you live in a sun-splashed region like Texas, you should definitely see a qualified dermatologist on a regular basis to have your skin checked," concludes Dr. Gifford, who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold's Houston Center Clinic located downtown.