The Burning Facts of Sun Exposure

Although the sun is essential for vitamin D synthesis of the skin, extensive time in the sun can be detrimental to one’s health. Vitamin D can also be obtained (in smaller quantities) in certain foods like fatty fish, foods fortified with vitamin D (milk and cereal) and nutritional supplements. Vitamin D is crucial in the diet, strengthening the bones and maintaining good overall health, as well as preventing osteoporosis.

UV Radiation Causes Premature Aging

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is classed as a carcinogen, not only that but it can impair the skin’s ability to act as a barrier against infection and other harmful invaders, thus suppressing the immune system. UVA rays are incredibly harmful to the skin; easily entering the ozone layer, penetrating the deep skin layers. UVB rays although partially enter the ozone layer, still are able to ensue damage by the continual thinning of the ozone layer. UVB radiation can easily cause painful sunburn.

Sun Damages the Skin and Eyes

Besides the fact that 90% of noticeable skin changes like age spots are attributed to premature aging, it’s primarily as a result of prolonged sun exposure. Sun damage causes wrinkles, rough and leathery skin, freckles and thread veins – to name a few.

Actinic keratosis (scaly skin caused by excessive sun exposure), which may be the start of premalignant lesions for squamous cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer). Sagging skin, vertically deep wrinkles are also characteristic, caused by the loss of the skin’s flexibility and strength because of connective tissue (collagen and elastin fibers) degeneration.

Certain medications may make a person’s skin more sensitive to the sun, and thus more susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun. This also includes those with certain autoimmune diseases like Lupus.

Shade the Eyes from UV Radiation

The sun can also damage the eyesight by the formation of cataracts, which if left untreated could lead to blindness. Eyelid cancers, melanoma and macular degeneration of the eye are primarily caused by prolonged sun exposure. It is important to wear sunglasses that block UV radiation and to go for regular eye check-ups.

How to Prevent Skin Cancer

A staggering 90% of non-melanoma and 65% of melanoma skin cancers link to extensive exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Sunscreen is highly recommended for all skin types, and should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. A sunscreen with SPF of 15 can provide 93% protection from UVB radiation, while an SPF of 30, 97%. Broad-spectrum sunscreens can protect the skin from both UVA and UVB radiation. It is possible to get sunburn on a cloudy day as UV radiation can still penetrate the skin. Tanning beds and tanning should be completely avoided.

Melanoma is considered the most rare and aggressive forms of skin cancer. Other skin cancers include basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, among other types of skin cancers. Early detection is key to successful remission. Although people with fairer skin or moles are at high risk of developing skin cancer if they spend extensive periods in the sun unprotected, people with dark complexions should still take precaution from the harmful effects of the sun.

For more advice on sun damage awareness and prevention, contact Herzliya Medical Center. Contact HMC for a comprehensive skin check-up with one of our renowned dermatologists - especially if you notice any suspicious markings, moles or lesions on your skin.

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