LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Dr. Robert Finkelstein, known as Dr. Rob to patients at his Lakewood Ranch practice, The Center for Skin Wellness, 6771 Professional Parkway W., sometimes sounds exactly like children's TV star Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," minus the sweater and sneakers.
It happens especially when he talks to parents and kids about the sun's rays.
"Surprise! Sunshine is good for kids and adults," Finkelstein last week told Eva Lindesmith, who is both his patient and his medical assistant and her daughter, Lilli, 9,
"The sun is responsible for cognitive and cellular processes," Finkelstein added in the same teacher-like, trusting and gentle manner that became Mister Rogers' trademark. "It converts Vitamin D, which we all know is important for bone growth and development. However, we only need 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure a day to get what our bodies need. UV-A and UV-B are wavelengths produced by the sun. Both UV-A and UV-B are responsible for the development of skin cancer. That's why we need protection from both, which a broad-spectrum sunscreen will provide with a protection number of SPF 30 or higher."
Finkelstein has decided to focus this summer on offering tips to his patients to reduce children's risk of developing skin cancer when they are older.
"The difficult part for most kids is getting that sunscreen reapplied throughout the day," Finkelstein said. "The more protection, the lower the risk."
According to the U.S.. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood sunburns can later turn into skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to skin cancer education and prevention, states that suffering one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life.
"My checklist is simple," Finkelstein said. "Put your sunscreen on when you do all your other morning prep. Wash your face, brush your teeth, get the sunscreen on. Big hats are good and sunglasses are very important as well. You can get melanoma in your eyes.
When school is out, kids tend to spend a lot more time outdoors, especially in our beach-front community.
"Look for bathing suits that cover more skin," said Dr. Navneet Dhillon , a medical oncologist with Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern Regional Medical Center. "Swim shirts, one-piece suits and long trunks come in fashionable colors and styles for both boys and girls."
Says Finkelstein: "Clothing manufacturers have been making clothing that claim to have UV protection. All clothing will provide some level of protection. The jury is still out about clothing having UV protection because statistics haven't shown a decrease in skin cancer."
Finkelstein knows how hard it is to get kids to wear protective clothing or rub cream on themselves. He remembers being young.
"I suffered many bad sunburns as a kid," Finkelstein said. "My grandparents lived at the Jersey shore and we spent many days building sand castles and burning our skin in the process. I remember how boiling hot the water felt when my mom rinsed the sand and sea water off. We didn't know then what we know now.
"Those bad burns we got as kids created a lot of the damage I see today," Finkelstein added. "Freckles from years past are now age spots that could someday become cancerous. Which is also why it's important to get annual skin checks. Even for me. Being a doctor doesn't prevent the dangers of sun damage."
Kids and adults should apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outside and especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Finkelstein said, adding that reapplication is really important especially after excessive sweating or time in the water.
"Parents should reapply sunscreen every two to four hours depending on the time spent outside," Finkelstein said. "Don't forget that the sun is still out there on cloudy days so we still need to protect ourselves. Kids who play in the shade can still be at risk. I always suggest protection."
Lindesmith, 35, came to Florida from Alaska when she was about 6-years-old and frolicked in the sun. Finkelstein is keeping an eye on her freckles now, although none has been a problem.
"We see lots of kids in our practice," Lindesmith said. "Parents like to bring their kids in once a year to have their moles checked and to have Doctor Rob reinforce them to wear sun screen."
Lindesmith is pro-active with her two daughters, Lilli, and Krystianna, 15, a student at Sarasota High School.
"Krystianna doesn't want to hear it about sunscreen because she says she doesn't want to look pasty, but I can get her to wear powdered sunscreen," Lindesmith said. "The mineral powder is in the brush and you do little circles on your face and the powder comes up. We have the powder at our office. I use it and I have it in my own make-up as well."
For Lilli, sunscreen has become a habit, which Finkelstein says is the ultimate goal for children.
"Lilli asks me to put it on before we go outside," Lindesmith said.
"Tanning is bad for teens and adults alike," Finkelstein said. "The issue for teens is that they don't realize what the effect of the sun does to skin as they age. Have you seen adults with skin that looks like wrinkled leather or with brown spots? It's not only unattractive, it's dangerous."
Dr. Rob has one final Mister Rogers-esque suggestion; "A healthy diet also helps protect our cells. Eat fresh and organic if possible."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.