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VA Maryland Health Care System


Don't Sweat it this Summer

Family strolling on the beach. Text: Think sunscreen is tonly for young people? Think again: Older skin is more delicate and vulnerable ot damage, including infections and skin cancer.

Tips to Stay Cool, Safe and Healthy

After a long winter, who isn’t eager to get outdoors and enjoy the sunny days of summer? Before you head out, protect yourself with these tips from Sandy Beam, RN, OCN, dermatology nurse care coordinator with the VA Maryland Health Care System:

  • Use sunscreen. Choose a product that blocks both UVA and UVB rays with a sun protection factor of 15 or more. Apply it 15-30 minutes before exposure, and reapply frequently.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. By then, your body is already dehydrated. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and carbonation—stick with water.
  • Seek shelter. Stay in air-conditioned areas when possible. Fans and shade will also help.
  • Limit outdoor activity. Keep indoors during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is strongest. Plan outdoor activities for the early morning or early evening.
  • Bug off. Protect yourself from mosquitos, ticks and other insects with bug repellent products or devices.
  • Cover up: Choose loose, lightweight clothing, wide-brimmed hats and UVA blocking sunglasses, which can help reduce damage to your eyes.
  • Watch for heat stroke. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms: confusion, disorientation, dry skin, excessive tiredness, headache, lethargy, nausea, and a rapid pulse.
  • Check your meds: Some medicines can cause side effects like an increased sensitivity to UV rays. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about what you are taking.

ABCDE'S of moles: look for Asymmetry, uneven Borders, dark black or multiple Colors, Dianmer greater than 6 mm, and Evolving: changing in size, shape and color.

If you notice any suspicious moles, Beam recommends seeing a dermatologist as it could be a sign of skin cancer.

The Dermatology Clinic at the Baltimore VA Medical Center diagnoses and treats the three forms of skin cancer—basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma—with the latest equipment and procedures. It now offers Mohs micrographic surgery, a precise technique used to treat skin cancer with minimal removal of healthy skin tissue.

“Mohs is a great option for our Veterans with cancer in areas where you want to minimize scarring, like the face, and for areas where you don’t have a lot of skin tissue, like the hands and feet,” said Beam.

Dermatologist Amor Khachemoune, MD, FAAD, FACMS, is specially trained to perform the surgery. “Standard surgery for removing skin cancer cells includes removing a good bit of the healthy tissue surrounding the cancer. You want to be sure you get it all and don’t have to go back in later,” he explained. “Now with Mohs, we remove the visible cancer cells, layer-by-layer, and examine them microscopically right then and there. As soon as we see healthy cells, we know we can stop.”

In addition to skin cancers, the Dermatology Clinic sees patients with a variety of skin conditions, including infections, eczema, and psoriasis. Located on the second floor of the Baltimore VA Medical Center, the clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment, contact your Primary Care team for a referral.

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