Protecting Your Skin From Sun Damage

By Cyndi Yag-Howard, MD, FAAD

Protecting Your Skin From Sun DamageIs Sun Exposure Really Bad for You?
Sun exposure in small amounts has benefits—mainly vitamin D production and mood elevation. However, too much sun exposure is harmful.

The sun emits ultraviolet radiation, which is divided into three main types: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is blocked by the atmosphere and is not proven to damage the skin. However, UVB damages the surface of the skin and is responsible for sunburn (UVB=Burn), while UVA affects the skin at a deeper level and damages collagen and elastic fibers, resulting in the signs of aging (UVA=Aging). Both UVA and UVB suppress the immune system in the skin, cause oxygen free radical formation and interfere with DNA repair, which can result in the formation of skin cancers. These UV rays are also responsible for causing abnormal and splotchy pigmentation, wrinkling and laxity of the skin.

Is Skin Cancer Dangerous?
Over 3.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, and approximately 1 in 5 Americans will get skin cancer over their lifetime. The three main types of skin cancer are: basal cell carcinoma (most common and least aggressive); squamous cell carcinoma (more aggressive with possible risk of spreading internally); and melanoma (most aggressive). Melanoma is responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths annually, is the most common cancer in females ages 25-29 and the second most common cancer in all adults ages 15-29. One American dies from melanoma every hour.

What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?
Skin cancers can be rough, scaly, smooth, shiny, dull, etc. They can be a variety of colors, including black, brown, red or blue. It takes a trained professional eye to identify suspicious lesions. Lesions that appear suddenly, itch, bleed, or change in appearance should be evaluated by a professional immediately.

How Do I Protect Myself from Skin Cancer?
Cover yourself with CASH to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays:
. Clothing
. All-over sunscreen: Broad-spectrum, SPF 30+
. Sunglasses
. Hat

Avoid direct sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and never use indoor tanning devices. Apply your sunscreen liberally 15-30 minutes before sun exposure to all exposed and covered areas. The sun can penetrate through many types of clothing. Tightly-woven, polyester, dark-colored clothing is preferable to loosely-woven, cotton and light-colored clothing. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours if you remain dry and every hour if get wet from water or perspiration.

YAG-Hower Dermatology Center

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