How much time do you spend in the sun? That’s an important question, because the UV rays produced by the sun have been documented to cause skin cancer in certain individuals. People who spend excessive amounts of time in the sun put themselves at greater risk – especially when they do their sunning without proper protection.
How Does the Sun Cause Skin Cancer?
All our lives, we’ve been told that the sun is good for us. Getting outside on a sunny day has long been a prescription for depression. The sun infuses vitamin D into your body, which is always a good thing. Plus the sun just feels so good. The problem comes from an element of sunlight that you can’t see: ultraviolet radiation.
As the ozone layer in our atmosphere continues to be compromised, more and more of the sun’s harmful UV rays filter down to earth and into our skin. The result can be skin cancer. These are the most common forms:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
These types of cancer can appear as a variety of changes in the skin. Melanoma is by far the most dangerous of the three, though it is not the most common. All skin cancers, if detected early enough, can be treated by medical or surgical procedures. Here are some symptoms to watch for.
Basal cell carcinoma: A waxy-looking bump on the skin or a lesion that is flat and either brown or flesh-colored and resembles a scar. Common areas include the neck and face.
Squamous cell carcinoma: A red, firm nodule or a flat lesion with a surface that appears crusted or scaly. Common on the ears, hands and face.
Melanoma: A new large, brown spot, moles that change color and appearance, lesions with oddly shaped borders and coloring such as red, blue, white, blue-black. Melanoma can appear on many parts of the body.
Don’t put off talking to your dermatologist if you have these or any other skin irregularities.
Enjoying the Sun and Preventing Cancer
If you want to or need to spend time under the sun, proper skin protection is your first line of defense. Never spend more than 15 minutes or so in the sun without first applying a high-quality sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. These lotions are designed to block some or most of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Further protection can be afforded by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses and long sleeves and pants, when practical. The key thing to remember is that our skin was not designed to absorb UV rays, so always think protection when you expect to be out in the sun for any length of time.
If you have noticed unusual changes in your skin, you owe it to yourself to arrange for a thorough skin check and evaluation. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, skin cancer is still a concern. Having your skin tested at least once a year is smart at any age, regardless of your sunning habits. If you live in the Houston area, call DermSurgery Associates at 713.791.9966 for an appointment today.
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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