May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and your board-certified dermatologists at Skin Associates of South Florida want to take this opportunity to remind you of the damage the sun’s rays can do to your skin.
Tanning—whether from the sun or from a tanning booth—is one of the most ruinous things you can do to your skin. The ultraviolet (UV) light damages the collagen and elastin in your skin that supports it, causing it to stretch and eventually to lose the ability to snap back into place, thus forming wrinkles. It affects the skin’s ability to heal, resulting in freckles, benign tumors, mottled areas of the skin (either red or brown), and red “spider veins” concentrated primarily on the upper cheeks and nose (telangiectasias), with an overall yellow discoloration of the skin.
If you want healthy, young-looking skin, we can’t say it often enough: limit your sun exposure, and be safe when you are outdoors. The sun’s UV light is the primary cause of aged-appearing skin, as well as the main driver of skin cancer.
The American Academy of Dermatology provided this UV photograph below which perfectly depicts skin damage you can’t see. A special UV camera blocks out visible and infrared light, and shows what isn’t visible to the naked eye. All of this hidden damage may eventually come to the surface in the form of the blemishes mentioned above.
The ultimate harmful result, of course, is skin cancer, which is triggered by UV light damaging the skin’s DNA. This causes the cells to create mutations or “errors” during replication, which leads to uncontrolled cell growth resulting in cancer. Research has shown that even a single bad sunburn as far back as childhood can result in skin cancer later in life. The same damage can result from less intense but cumulative exposure over the years.[hr]
What can you do to prevent this?
Avoid the sun during peak-burn hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Always use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, even if you’re indoors and sitting near windows. Recent studies show that UV light penetrates glass more than previously thought. When outdoors, always wear a hat with a wide brim of at least four inches, as well as clothing made of sun-protective fabric (UV rays can penetrate ordinary thin cloth) when possible. Be careful of reflected light which can even “bounce” beneath a sun umbrella. Anything white, including sand and concrete, will magnify UV rays, and light reflecting off water is notorious for causing unanticipated sunburns. Don’t forget your car windows, tint them when possible, and if the darkened glass look does not match your style, clear UV-blocking film can be applied including to the windshield.
Finally, there are many ways to mitigate the damage already done to your skin. Since 95% of all skin cancers can be cured if caught early, please consult with your board-certified dermatologists at Skin Associates of South Florida for your yearly check-up to help you choose the most appropriate path toward refreshing and revitalizing your skin.