By Audrey A. Lewerenz-Walsh –
Many people think that a sunburn is caused by overexposure of the skin to the sun’s rays but in essence it is only the UV rays that cause sunburn and it is for this reason that sunscreen was developed. High SPF sunscreen such as 30-50 can really help to protect skin from the sun’s harmful rays and help avoid a painful sunburn. But, a sunburn can be more than just a pain for a few days, too much sun exposure can actually lead to more serious issues such as skin cancers.
There are essentially 2 types of UV rays and they are namely UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate deep within the skin layers and are responsible for photo aging that causes the development of wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays on the other hand are the chief cause of skin reddening and sun burns. That is why, apart from the SPF (Skin Protection Factor), you also need to look for PPD (Persistent Pigment Darkening) measures. While SPF protects against sunburns, PPD will prevent any photo aging. A quality broad spectrum sunscreen will protect against the UVA as well as the UVB rays of the sun. It is important to make sure your skin is protected from both these rays in order to prevent damage and cancer.
The worst type of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. Skin Cancer in the US according to the American Cancer Society will occur in approximately 2 million Americans in 2010 and around 6,8000 will be diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Usually, it occurs from pigmented (dark brown) moles greater than the size of an eraser with irregular borders and changing colors or it becomes thickened or raised. Don’t become a skin cancer statistic this summer.
Short of cancer, though, years of sun exposure gradually changes your skin in ways that make you look – well, old. Yes, sunlight can promote premature aging of the skin, accelerating natural aging processes, weakening collagen, and causing the elastic fibers in skin to uncoil like a worn-out bedspring. After too much sun exposure the skin begins to sag. Gravity takes over, the skin can’t hold out, so down it comes.
Sun exposure also dries out skin and reduces its ability to hold moisture. The resulting lines and wrinkles sharpen the appearance of aging. And the cute, charming freckles that the sun brings out in childhood morph into the brown spots and discoloration that plague us as we get older.
There are many different products available to help you protect your (and your child’s) skin. Expose to sunlight is the major contributing factor in developing skin cancer later in life. Blistering sunburns in children and adolescence significantly increase the risk of skin cancer.
Most people receive more than 50% of their lifetime ultraviolet dose by 20 years of age. Limiting exposure to UV light in children and teens makes a difference in preventing cancer in later life. It is extremely important that you protect your children’s skin and teach them to apply sunblock daily as part of their day-to-day routine. Sunblock products consist not only of sunscreen protectants, but there are a variation of different gels, lotions and makeup for sale to help you stay looking good while protecting your skin from harmful rays. But, covering up with long sleeve unbleached cotton shirts, hats and sunglasses are also important.
If you have questions or suspicions of a changing mole on you or your child, Dr. Lewerenz-Walsh would be available to recommend a treatment plan. She performs a skin check as part of your routine physical.
You don’t have to stay inside all summer, just please be conscious of how much time you do spend in the sun and always, always wear sunscreen.
For more information, call941-748-8069