Sun Safety: Protecting Your Skin with Billings Dermatology & Aesthetics

May 2024

article by hannah olson | photos by renata haidle

As the sun begins to warm our days and beckons us outdoors, it's essential to remember the importance of protecting our skin.  May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and we spoke with Dr. Tanya Riddle, owner and Board Certified Dermatologist of Billings Dermatology & Aesthetics to shed light on the significance of skin health and sun safety.  

The Reality of Skin Cancer 

Dr. Riddle emphasizes the urgent need for awareness, noting, “My hope is that we can save lives because every day, someone is dying from skin cancer.” Shockingly, melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, ranks as the fifth leading cause of death among both men and women. Despite this grim reality, early detection drastically improves survival rates, with a staggering 99 percent five-year survival rate when detected early. 

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans is expected to develop it by age 70, while more than two people die from skin cancer in the U.S. every hour. Just five or more sunburns can double the risk of melanoma, though early detection raises the 5-year survival rate to 99 percent. Each day, over 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer, surpassing the combined incidence of all other cancers. These statistics highlight the urgent need for increased awareness, regular screenings, and sun protection measures. 

The Impact of Sun Exposure 

Sun exposure, a significant contributor to skin cancer, is often underestimated. Dr. Riddle stresses that UV radiation's cumulative effects pose serious risks, including premature aging and increased susceptibility to skin cancer. Whether it's a day at the beach or a casual walk outside, every moment in the sun adds to this cumulative damage, underscoring the necessity of adopting sun-safe habits year-round. 

When it comes to aging gracefully, sun exposure poses immediate risks and accelerates skin aging. Approximately 80 percent of skin aging is attributable to sun damage. Individuals can mitigate this damage by incorporating daily sunscreen use and preserving youthful skin for longer. 

Dispelling Myths and Embracing Facts 

Dispelling common myths is crucial in combating skin cancer. “There are things we can do to reduce our risk, and the number one thing is tanning. Women under 30 who have used tanning beds have a 30% increased chance of getting melanoma,” said Dr. Riddle. 

Contrary to popular belief, base tans do not shield the skin from damage; they merely mask it, fostering a false sense of security. Additionally, while sunlight is a vital source of vitamin D, achieving optimal levels doesn't require prolonged exposure. Dr. Riddle advises that, in reality, just 20 minutes of sun exposure on your forearms is adequate for obtaining the vitamin D levels we need.  

Protecting Your Loved Ones 

When it comes to children, vigilance is paramount. Babies under six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight as their delicate skin cannot tolerate sunscreen. Dr. Riddle recommends protective clothing, broad-spectrum sunscreen, and shaded play areas for older children to minimize sun damage. Most importantly, by setting an example with your own sun-safe practices, you instill lifelong habits in your children to practice the habits to keep them safe and healthy as well. 

Another thing to note is that regardless of the hour or the time of day, sun exposure still causes damage. “Anytime it’s cloudy, remember that 80% of the sun is still coming through,” Dr. Riddle reminds us, “although the sun is worse during certain hours, it can damage our skin anytime it’s out.” 

Recognizing the Warning Signs 

Empowering individuals to be proactive in their skin health, Dr. Riddle introduces the ABCDEs of melanoma: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variation, Diameter exceeding 6mm, and Evolution in appearance. Regular skin checks using this simple mnemonic can help detect concerning changes early, enabling timely intervention and potentially life-saving treatment. 

The Importance of Regular Skin Checks 

Regular skin exams, whether spot checks or more complete assessments are instrumental in early detection. Dr. Riddle reassures that these exams need not be daunting and emphasizes the importance of seeking evaluation for any suspicious spots or changes in your skin. 

Dr. Riddle and her team offer a comprehensive skin health approach, addressing medical and cosmetic concerns. Committed to patient education and care, they strive to empower individuals to prioritize their skin health. Throughout May, they offer complimentary skin checks, embodying their dedication to promoting skin cancer awareness and prevention. All you need to do is call to schedule your free appointment during the month of May! 

Take Action Today 

For this Skin Cancer Awareness Month, seize the opportunity to prioritize your skin health. Whether adopting sun-safe habits, scheduling a skin check, setting a positive example for others, or seeking expert guidance, taking proactive steps today can safeguard your skin for years to come and even save your life. Take your first step by contacting Billings Dermatology and Aesthetics to begin your journey to healthier, happier skin.  

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of Simply Local Magazine

Never miss an issue, check out SLM's digital editions here!  

related articles: 

Get local updates, events and special offers!

Local Events