Everybody wants good-looking skin, but many people ignore one of the most skin-damaging elements in our world: the sun. Sun damaged skin not only looks bad but it can lead to skin cancer. Are there ways to protect yourself? Absolutely.
May is National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, so we wanted to share five steps you can practice to keep the harmful effects of the sun’s rays from affecting your skin. But first, let’s understand what sun damaged skin really means.
Ultraviolet rays and skin cancer
Experts believe that more than 90 percent of skin cancers are caused by excessive contact with the sun’s ultraviolet rays. These rays, of course, are invisible, and there’s no way to determine how they’re affecting your skin or at what rate. There is no “set time” for skin cancer to develop, meaning one person may present with this condition as a teenager, while another may not be affected until the “golden years.” Let’s look more closely at ultraviolet rays.
Radiation from ultraviolet rays is a serious risk factor for many skin cancers. You may have seen or heard the terms “UVA” and “UVB.” These refer to types of sun rays. UVA rays affect skin cells and may play a role in some skin cancers. UVB rays are more dangerous in that they damage the DNA in skin cells, are responsible for sun burns and cause most types of skin cancers.
Various factors affect a person’s level of UV exposure. They include:
Time: UV rays are more likely to affect the skin between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the times to be vigilant in applying a quality sunscreen product.
Season: UV rays are strongest during spring and summer, although they can cause sun damaged skin any time of year. It’s a mistake to assume that your skin is safe from the harmful effects of the sun on cold but sunny winter days.
Altitude: Higher altitudes mean stronger UV rays.
Clouds: Some clouds reduce UV exposure while others don’t. You can’t know which clouds are which, so don’t go outside unprotected thinking clouds will stop UV rays.
Reflection: Surfaces that reflect light can also reflect harmful ultraviolet rays. Water and snow are two examples. You may have experienced a “surprise” sunburn after a day playing in the snow, and reflection is the reason.
Five ways to prevent sun damaged skin from UV rays
1. When you expect to be under the sun for more than 15 minutes, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher. A 15 SPF sunscreen will block 93 percent of UV rays. In selecting a sunscreen, you don’t need to aim for ultra-high SPF numbers, such as 50 and above. In most cases, anything over 15 will provide dependable protection.
2. Protect the skin on your face and neck with a large, floppy hat when spending extended time under the sun. You may have noticed that many laborers who work all day in the sun wear big hats and long sleeves to protect themselves.
3. Wear clothing that’s thick enough to block out the light. This is especially important for legs and arms, which tend to get more sun exposure than other parts of the body.
4. Your eyes can be affected by ultraviolet light. When out on a sunny day, wear sunglasses that are designed to block UV rays. If you’ve ever had days with long periods in the sun and then eyes that sting and itch afterward, this is the reason, so always do everything you can to protect your eyes.
5. If you can’t take any of the above precautions, limit sun exposure to the greatest extent possible. Staying out of the sun is the #1 most effective way to prevent sun damaged skin and possible skin cancer.
If you’ve never had a skin cancer check, maybe it’s time to schedule one. DermSurgery Associates can test for many types of cancer and pre-cancerous conditions and provide all necessary treatments and follow-ups for individuals who are diagnosed with this condition.
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DermSurgery Associates is a Greater Houston area dermatology practice offering cosmetic, surgical and non-invasive dermatology treatments and procedures with industry-leading physicians trained and experienced with the most current dermatology technologies and procedures. For more information, contact
7515 Main, Suite 240
Houston, TX 77030