About the Authors

Mika Yamazaki

Mika Yamazaki, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and president of the Hawaii Dermatological Society.

Ryan Sato

Ryan Sato, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and vice president of the Hawaii Dermatological Society.

Allyson Spence-Shishido

Allyson Spence-Shishido, M.D., is a board-certified pediatric dermatologist and secretary-treasurer of the Hawaii Dermatological Society.

The death rate from melanoma for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is twice the statewide average.

As we enjoy our summer, we’re all eager to spend more time outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, the ocean, and our beautiful islands. While many of us love being outside, it’s important to remember that excessive sun exposure can lead to skin damage and increase our risk of skin cancer.

In fact, Hawaii is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to UV-induced melanoma. And it’s important to remember that sun damage is cumulative in nature, which means that sunburns in childhood and adolescence can catch up with you later in life.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., with one in five Americans being diagnosed by age 70. Hawaii has the highest daily average UV index in the nation, making it vital that we practice sun safety all year long.

As dermatologists who manage sun-related skin conditions, we want to share four essential facts about skin health and sun safety:

Skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, gender and age: It’s important to remember that melanoma can affect individuals of all skin tones. Darker-skinned individuals, including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, are not exempt from skin cancer.

Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma — Asymmetrical: Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different? Border: Is the border irregular or jagged? Color: Is the color uneven? Diameter: Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea? Evolving: Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months? (https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/symptoms.htm)

In fact, according to data from the Department of Health, the death rate from melanoma for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is twice the statewide average. This may be due to late detection, as many people wrongly assume that those with darker skin tones don’t need to worry about skin cancer.

Additionally, the melanoma death rate for men in Hawaii is even more concerning — four times the death rate of women. This is why it’s crucial to be vigilant about sun protection and skin examinations, regardless of your skin tone, gender or age.

Preventative measures may reduce the risk of skin cancer by up to 80%: Men and women should take proactive steps to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Seek shade, wear wide-brimmed hats, wear sunglasses, and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF on exposed skin whenever you’re outside. Apply one ounce of sunscreen and reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.

Choose the right sunscreen for you: Sunscreens tend to fall under one of two consumer categories: chemical or mineral sunscreens. The term “reef-safe” sunscreen has been recently popularized, but it’s important to note that there’s no regulatory definition for what constitutes “reef-safe” sunscreen.

Some people use mineral sunscreens when in the ocean because they tend to stick better when swimming, and use chemical sunscreens in everyday situations because they feel lighter on the skin. What’s important is that you find a sunscreen that feels right for you and make it a part of your daily routine.

Early detection is crucial: When detected early, melanoma has a 99% five-year survival rate. We recommend performing monthly self-skin examinations, paying attention to any changes in size, color, or texture of moles, or any lesions that appear.

Keep in mind that skin cancer can occur on any part of your body, including your scalp, ears, and even your feet. Take photos to track changes and share them with your healthcare provider if needed.

Here in Hawaii, we have a fond relationship with the sun, but that doesn’t mean we should take its threatening potential for granted. Be proactive about your skin health by practicing sun safety, conducting regular self-examinations, and scheduling annual check-ups with a physician.

Together, let’s prioritize our skin health and ensure a sun-safe, happy, and healthy Hawaii

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.


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About the Authors

Mika Yamazaki

Mika Yamazaki, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and president of the Hawaii Dermatological Society.

Ryan Sato

Ryan Sato, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and vice president of the Hawaii Dermatological Society.

Allyson Spence-Shishido

Allyson Spence-Shishido, M.D., is a board-certified pediatric dermatologist and secretary-treasurer of the Hawaii Dermatological Society.


Latest Comments (0)

Thank you for this. Sunscreen is an important tool in protecting us against the harmful effects of overexposure to UV rays from the sun, and there can be a lot of confusing misinformation. Australia also had a "slip-slop-slap" campaign to suggest other sun protective measures: slip on a rashguard, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a sun hat. Clothing and staying in the shade also go a long way in helping protect skin from the sun.

wilson.aliado · 6 months ago

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