University of South Alabama

Timely Topics From Our Physicians for Your Healthy Life

Mona Hagmaier Shares Timely Facts about Sun Exposure and Skin Care

With temperatures rising and summer now in full swing, it is important to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun's rays, also known as ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Mona Hagmaier, a physician assistant at the University Physicians Group, said that because UV damage is difficult to reverse, it is important to protect your skin every time you are outside.

   "UV light is injurious because it damages the body's genetic material, which changes the kinds and amounts of chemicals that the skin cells make. It is these changes to the DNA that are responsible for the damaging effects of UV light, including skin cancer, premature skin aging and burning."
Mona Hagmaier, PA-C





Hagmaier says there are several steps you can take to limit the amount of exposure to UV rays, including wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30, and applying it often for maximum protection. Hagmaier also recommends staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when UV radiation is more intense, as well as wearing clothing with built-in protection.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are more than 3.5 million estimated cases of skin cancer detected each year, making it the most common cancer in the United States. Sadly, Hagmaier said, more than 1 million Americans still use tanning salons, which also produces dangerous UV exposure.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says that tanning beds will increase your risk of melanoma, a type of skin cancer that causes the majority of skin cancer deaths, by 75 percent. People who use tanning beds are also 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, and 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma.

Hagmaier said the following people are more at risk of developing melanoma than others:

• Blondes or redheads
• Fair-skinned individuals that freckle and burn easily
• A person who already has a history of melanoma
• A person who has a first-degree relative who has been
  diagnosed with melanoma
• A person who has several or more moles
• Someone with an autoimmune disease such as lupus
• Someone who has had an organ transplant

The most important warning sign for melanoma, Hagmaier said, is a new spot on the skin that is changing color, shape or size. She suggests following the A-B-C-D-E rule as a guide to the signs of melanoma:

• A --asymmetry -- when one-half of a birthmark or mole does not match the other
• B - border - if the edges are blurred or irregular
• C - color - if the color includes patches of pink, black, brown, red, white or blue
• D - diameter - if the spot is larger than the size of a pencil eraser
• E - elevation or evolution - if the mole seems to be spreading or rising

Other warning signs include changes in sensation such as pain, itchiness or tenderness, or a sore that does not heal. Hagmaier said that your health care provider should check you annually as part of a routine cancer-related checkup, and you should check your skin once a month at home in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room.

"It is important that you learn the pattern of freckles, moles and spots on your body so you will notice any changes over time," she said. "If you find something suspicious, you should see a health care provider with training in biopsying skin cancers immediately."

To make an appointment with Mona call 660-5787. To connect with any USA Physician, call (251) 434-3711 or visit


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