We all love sunshine that enables us to enjoy many outdoor activities. It is necessary for us to have sun exposure to obtain Vitamin D. The amount of sunshine you are exposed to can even affect your mood. Studies have shown that in the North West where it rains much of the time people suffer from depression and vitamin D deficiency more than others who live in areas with greater sunshine exposure.
While there are health benefits to sunshine exposure there can also be health risks. Prolonged exposure to UVR can and does damage your skin. The American Cancer Society recommends a skin screening every 3 years for people aged 20 to 40 and annually for those over 40. Researchers estimate that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at least once in their lifetime.
90% of skin cancers are caused by the sun. Acute sunburns place the patient at higher risk for skin cancer. Second degree burns before age 18 can double your risk for skin cancer. While the basal cell is most common skin cancer, metastatic melanoma is the most deadly. So UVR which damages the DNA in your skin cells comes from several sources. There is the sun, but there is also tanning beds. People think that because their skin is nice and brown they look better and are healthier. This is delusional. The reason your skin turns brown from sun or tanning beds is that it is damaged. So while you might think you look better and you’re sporting a tan, you have skin damage. UVR can penetrate some clothing, so you need to wear a good sunscreen. I personally recommend something with an SPF of 30 or greater.
I was raised in southern California in the desert. I had multiple sunburns. I used to lay out and tan by the pool, beach and go to the tanning booth to make myself the brown color that I thought made me look good. In the last 15 years, I have had multiple surgeries on my face to remove basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. I have to have my screening every three months due to the number of cancers I have had.
The moral of this story is limit your sun exposure, wear sunscreen, stay out tanning booths, and avoid laying out in the sun. If you have any areas of your skin that are new, discolored, bleeding or changing see your Primary Provider for evaluation.
Wade Smith, RN/Owner