Your Skin and The Sun
The summer is upon us, and so is the sun! This 4.5 billion year old star continues to emit many types of electromagnetic radiation (energy; light). The type responsible for damaging the skin and causing skin cancer is called ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
The most common form of UV radiation is sunlight, which produces 3 main types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. As the waves of radiation pass through the atmosphere, all of UVC and some of UVB are absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer. Most of the UV rays our skin comes into contact with are UVA and a small amount of UVB.
· Up to 95% of the UV radiation reaches the Earth’s surface
· Present with equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year
· Can penetrate clouds and glass
· Penetrates the skin more deeply that UVB
· Chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn
· Intensity varies by season, location, and time of day (most significant amount hits between 10:00 AM through 4:00 PM April to October)
· Does not significantly penetrate glass
The ultraviolet index (UVI) is a rating scale with numbers ranging from 1 to 11. It indicates the amount of skin-damaging rays reaching the Earth’s surface during the day. The higher the number, the more intense the UV rays you will be exposed to.
Our skin is the largest organ of our body. Its many functions include
· Covering our internal organs and protecting them from injury
· Serving as a barrier to germs
· Preventing the loss of water
· Helping control body temperature
· Protecting the body from UV rays
· Helping the body make vitamin D
Melanin is the brown pigment that gives our skin color. People with albinism (albino), make little or no melanin, leaving skin that is pale white with shades of pink. Fair-skinned people produce very little melanin, darker-skinned people produce moderate amounts, and very dark-skinned people produce the most. Melanin is evenly distributed in the skin, but can sometimes pool together causing freckles or age spots.
When your skin cells are exposed to UV radiation, the body responds by increasing blood flow to the area (causing redness), releasing chemicals (causing a painful burning sensation), and producing melanin (dark, tanned appearance).
Excessive UV radiation damages the skin’s DNA, causing genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer.
There are 2 types of skin cancer
· Non-melanoma (basal and squamous cell): Most often develops in sun-exposed areas
· Melanoma: Less common and more dangerous. Melanoma is cancer that begins in the skin cells that produce melanin (melanocytes).
Signs of skin cancer:
· Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color)
· Scaliness, roughness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way an area of skin looks
· A sore that doesn’t heal
· The spread of color beyond the edge of a mole or mark
· A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
Tips for Preventing Skin Cancer
· Seek shade, especially between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm
· Add a tinted protective film to your car and house windows
· Wear special sun-protective clothes
· Wear broad-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses
All About Sunscreen
The effectiveness of a sunscreen is measured by its sun protection factor (SPF). This number indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to redden without the product. For example, someone using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without sunscreen. An SPF 15 sunscreen screens 93% of the sun's UVB rays; SPF 30 protects against 97%; and SPF 50, 98%.
· Since both UVA and UVB are harmful, you need protection from both kinds of rays
· Apply 2 tablespoons of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating
· Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months
· See your medical provider every year for a professional skin exam