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Tanning - Moles and Photo-exposure - FAQ

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Tanning – Moles and Photo-exposure

Moles are very common at every age. They develop during infancy and usually reach a definitive number in adolescence, although a few can manifest themselves in adulthood. They generally present themselves as dark brown spots or elevated lesions of diameters less than 1cm.

I’m a man of 21-years with a rather pale complexion. In summer if I stay in the sun I go red for a few days and then turn “white” again. I wanted to ask you if, in cases like mine, you can use the so-called “self-tanning agents” to colour the skin a bit before summer (without harmful effects obviously). Thank you.

Dear correspondent, the self-tanning agents available on the market these days are almost all safe and well-formulated. In reality though, they don’t tan the skin (that is to say, they don’t stimulate the production of melanin), but simply colour the superficial layer (epidermis) with a pigment. For this reason, they don’t offer any protection against ultra-violet rays, but simply give a nice colour to the skin. For this reason they are suitable for people who don’t normally tan, in order to achieve the desired cosmetic effect. It is essential to use a high factor sun-screen in cases of sun-exposure and it can be useful to take a dietary supplement of carotenoids. Best regards, Dr. Lorenzo Peli – GISED.

Dear association, if possible, I would like to know which is the correct sun-screen factor for very pale skin with many beauty-spots, but which also allows gradual tanning (even if slowly), so that you don’t burn even with factor 6-8. Unfortunately I was badly burned as a child. Is total sun-block the only adequate protection for beauty-spots? And which are the best products?

Sun-protection must be chose not only based on the photo-type of the subject, but must also be chosen based on the extent of sun exposure. A brief exposure to the sun in the late afternoon at our respectful latitudes is different from a prolonged exposure in the middle of the afternoon in the tropics. If your skin is pale and full of beauty-spots, then I would advise you in every event: to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, to avoid the sun completely between 11:00 and 14:00 and to use a high-factor sun-screen resistant to water and sweat. It isn’t necessary to use a different protection on your beauty-spots, it’s fine to use the same cream for your whole body. Also eat lots of fruit and vegetables (if necessary to increase carotenoids) – bring to your doctor’s attention any possible sudden changes in the appearance of your moles. Best regards, Dr. Lorenzo Peli – GISED

I have a bit of a strange problem…caused by my own stupidness…In February I went on holiday to the Tropics. For sun cream, I bought some in a herbalist’s shop…one of those prepared with herbs and no chemicals…Needless to say that it didn’t work…instead it was like it “attracted sunlight”…and so I got burned. Not content enough I added injury upon injury…Infact, for the next two days I used the cream... to alleviate the burning pain (at least it alleviated it!) but continued to sun-tan…Still today I’m finding patches on my face…and I believe that it was really the effect of the cream applied while I was exposed to the sun (I didn’t think there would be a pharmacist there in any case…) especially on the forehead where there remain brown patches under the skin…What do I do??? HELP!

It is, by now, verified that sun-burns can carry serious consequences for the skin, even after many years. For this reason it is of prime importance to take all necessary precautions to prevent them. The use of protective sun cream is certainly important, but also to use products of good quality, if need be by asking the advice of a doctor or pharmacist. Many plant-based substances are photosensitive, meaning that they amplify the harmful effects of sun radiation, carrying with them consequences that are also harmful (phototoxic and photoallergic dermatitis); a classic example is milk of the fig plant, which seriously damages the skin upon exposure to the sun. In order to get rid of the dark patches that remain as a result of photodamage it is possible to turn to a clarifying preparation or carry out chemical peeling (in both cases I advise you to go and see a reliable dermatologist). Best regards, Dr. Lorenzo Peli – GISED.

I write in order to ask you about my girlfriend (21 years) who, among her many qualities, will not have the self-control to keep an appointment with her doctor. However, I’ve noticed that she has a group of moles that seem a bit strange on the lower part of her back that before (her mother told me) were smaller. I have sent you a couple of photos in the hope that you can say something more on their possible dangers. Thank you from the heart and best wishes.

Thank you for the message and the pictures. Their appearance recalls to mind that of the so-called “nevus spilus” or alternatively, and more appropriately, the so-called “speckled lentiginous naevus.” It’s of a size not frequently characterised by a milky-coffee patch in which you observe small melanocytic moles. A more precise response requires the evaluation by a dermatologist. In general, nevus spilus is not usually treated. Best regards, Dr. Luigi Naldi Coordinator of Gruppo Italiano Studi Epidemiologici in Dermatologia (GISED).

I have a question to ask you that has been nagging me…In July 2001 a mole was removed (a histological examination was never carried out), this mole has returned. My question is: Is it malignant???? Please respond. Thank you very much.

Dear Madam, if the removal of a mole is not carried out properly it can grow back. You are then talking about a “recurrent mole.” Re-growth on the scar tissue of a previous removal can also bring irregular aspects that are not signs of malignancy. It’s good practice, in general, to carry out an histological examination of the pigmented lesions removed from the skin. Best regards, Dr. Luigi Naldi Coordinator of Gruppo Italiano Studi Epidemiologici in Dermatologia (GISED).

Hello, I wanted to know, how long after a visit to the dermatologist for the removal of a mole, do I have to wait before I can go into the sunshine? Is the mole removal done in outpatients? Or inpatients? How long does the procedure last? Is there a recovery period of 1-2 days in hospital? I thank you in anticipation.

Dear Sir, melanocytic moles are lesions that are totally benign and extremely widespread. Beyond that there are the aesthetic problems and their removal can be justified in occasions of diagnostic uncertainty. Sun radiation can stimulate the process of scarring and after removal of any cutaneous lesions it is advisable not to expose them to excessive sunlight in order to avoid the development of unsightly scars. The removal of melanocytic moles (with the exception of congenital moles of large dimensions) happens generally in the outpatient department. Following the removal of the mole a histological examination of the lesion should be carried out. Best regards, Dr. Luigi Naldi Coordinator of Gruppo Italiano Studi Epidemiologici in Dermatologia (GISED).

Dear Doctor, after almost 2 years I can’t tan myself anymore, instead I get swollen every time by annoying erythema that obliges me to stay far away from the sun. This year they advised me to take one capsule a day of ... (dietetic integrator) that should help me to avoid the erythema. Could the use of this supplement accentuate the two patches present on my face caused by using the contraceptive pill? During this time I’m also using a facecream (daily) that has two functions: to protect from UV-a and UV-b rays whilst also fading the patches. In your professional opinion should I change to a cream that gives total protection, whilst taking the strong...? Thanking you in anticipation, Best regards.

Dear Madam, the product that they have advised you to take, a base of carotenoids and antioxidant vitamins, is okay and won’t cause the patches (cloasma) on your face to get worse. For the latter, a clarifying product (like the one you indicated) is recommended and during the day it is necessary to employ a cream with total protection, if you expect to expose yourself to the sun and even if you only stay out in the open occasionally during sunny weather. Best regards, Dr. Luigi Naldi Coordinator of Gruppo Italiano Studi Epidemiologici in Dermatologia (GISED).

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